Officials of the previous government have exploited the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law, which was designed to declog jails of inmates, to open moneymaking ventures inside the national penitentiary.
“The GCTA Law opened the opportunity for the python to enter the poultry park and kill everything there. The intention of the law is good and I don’t want to mention who pushed for this law, but it opened wider opportunities for corruption,” Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, pointed out.
The panel’s hearing today will seek to unearth the ringleaders of the several rackets in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), foremost of which was the awarding of sentence reductions under the GCTA Law.
The senator maintained that Republic Act 10592 or GCTA Law was used as the key to open more corruption activities inside the NBP.
“The GCTA Law provided another moneymaking scheme or opportunities for corruption in the New Bilibid Prison and other penitentiaries, where everything is already ‘buyable.’ These activities like tilapia, rent-a-call and drug trade were already existing long before. And when this GCTA Law was crafted, there’s a new mode of corruption that was created,” Gordon said.
Last Thursday, the panel exposed at least seven forms of profitable transactions inside the NBP, which include prostitution, kidnap-for-ransom and smuggling of contraband inside the national jail facility.
De Lima’s hounds
This was enumerated by former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agent Jovencio Ablen Jr. upon questioning of Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
Gordon also presented a timeline during the Thursday hearing on the implementation of the GCTA Law. Subsequently, the two resource persons tagged former Justice secretary and now Sen. Leila De Lima for having capitalized on the implementation of the law.
They narrated that De Lima directed them to collect money from high-profile inmates and deliver them to her residence in Parañaque. Ablen said the money was intended for her campaign for the 2016 senatorial elections.
Majority of the deliberations tackled the transactions happening inside the NBP during De Lima’s stint as Justice secretary and set aside the questioning of suspended BuCor officials and dismissed BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon.
In a statement, De Lima said the Senate hearing intentionally steered away from probing Faeldon and former BuCor chief and now Sen. Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III explained, however, it is inevitable for the Senate panel to dig deeper in past events including former officials of DoJ and BuCor when the law was first implemented.
Mysteries to be solved
Gordon has invited retired Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief and now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong to testify today and further substantiate the events that happened inside the NBP.
He further claimed that the implementing rules and regulations of RA 10592 effectively transferred the review and approval powers of the DoJ in connection to the release of prisoners to the BuCor and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).
“From 2013 to 2015, BuCor started releasing prisoners until Justice Secretary Alfredo Benjamin Caguiao took over as Justice secretary, saw the volume of release and immediately issued Department Order 953. But a lot of fundraising has transpired by then which continued until the present,” Gordon said.
Convicts control NBP
High-profile inmates practically control the NBP as the detainees, and no longer the government authorities, are the ones who command the activities inside the national penitentiary, Lacson said in a radio interview.
“What was clearly established here is it seems that the high-profile inmates became the powerful and richest, that they are the ones who run the jail and not the government,” Lacson expressed.
“Because they were the ones who were being followed. Who will be put in the kubol, who will be transferred in far areas — in Iwahig or Davao — and who will be confined in the hospital. And they were the ones who direct the operation of drugs outside (the Bilibid). That is clear,” he indicated.
With Miguel Paolo Togonon