By Bernadette E Tamayo /Manila Times
The Senate is looking into the possibility of expanding its investigation of the reported widespread corruption at the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to include alleged irregularities at the Correctional Institute for Women.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson raised this issue yesterday amid reports that convicted “drug queen” Yu Yuk Lai was found to have been confined for two years at the Metropolitan Hospital in Sta. Cruz, Manila.
Yu, a Filipino-Chinese, was arrested in 1998 after she was caught selling three kilos of shabu in an anti-drugs operation. “The Senate Blue Ribbon has already subpoenaed records of the Metropolitan Hospital. It seems that Yu Yuk Lai is already overstaying at the hospital,” Lacson said in a radio interview.
“She was caught at the Makati Medical Center, wasn’t she? She was supposed to be jailed at the correctional. And she was seen shopping in Greenbelt because she was confined at the MMC which is just nearby. Why and how much?” the senator asked.
He said, “Now, she has been confined at the Metropolitan Hospital. It was revealed yesterday at the Senate inquiry on corruption at BuCor that she was confined there for seven months, but one of my sources inside the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa said she’s confined there for two years already.”
“The women’s correctional is part of BuCor. That’s included in the penitentiaries nationwide. If you count the number of prisoners, there are about 40,000 to 50,000 in the entire Philippines. The life termers are about 26,000,” Lacson noted.
Although already in prison, agents from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency seized in November 2017 from Yu Yuk Lai’s cell at least two kilos of suspected shabu contained in plastic packs and jars; 19 checks worth P633,593; five mobile phones; one tablet (computer); one pocket Wi-Fi; unused foils; panty liners; empty sachets; and cash in various foreign currencies.
Also yesterday, President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered BuCor’s next-in-rank officials to take over the post of their superiors who were suspended by the Office of Ombudsman over the controversial release of heinous crime convicts, Malacanang said.
Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo made the statement a day after the president bared his plan to initiate an entire revamp at the BuCor over the reported “Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) for sale” scandal.
“The instruction of the president is that those next-in-rank are the ones who will take over the post of those suspended officials.
They’re the ones who will replace them,” Panelo said in a radio interview.
Ombudsman Samuel Martires earlier ordered 30 BuCor officers placed under a six-month suspension for alleged grave misconduct over their reported involvement in the premature release under the GCTA of heinous crime convicts.
The president fired BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon for disobeying an order not to release heinous crime convicts.
These would have included rapist-killer and former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez.
In his speech during the inauguration of the Bataan government centre and business hub in Balanga City, Bataan on Thursday night, Duterte raised the prospects of overhauling the BuCor amid the massive corruption in the bureau, including the erroneous implementation of Republic Act 10592 or the “GCTA Law.”
“Setting aside all the legal infirmities there, even if it was allowed, corruption was present, I’m just telling you. And everybody will go, will have to go. They know that, not because they were maybe exercising a questionable provision of law and arrogating upon themselves or to themselves that power,” he said.
The GCTA is earned as a reward for an inmate who shows good behaviour and will be deducted from the jail term he or she needs to serve.
Records from the BuCor showed that over 22,000 prisoners, including 1,914 convicted of heinous crimes, have been released from 2014 to early August 2019.
The data revealed that the number of freed heinous crime convicts significantly rose from 62 in 2014 to 816 in 2019.
Lacson said the new BuCor chief must have “intestinal fortitude” to address deeply rooted corruption at the agency to the benefit of high-profile inmates at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on Thursday learned from the testimonies of the witnesses that unscrupulous BuCor personnel brought in female entertainers for a fee, “sell” hospital pass and allow a 24-hour casino, among others.
Lacson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, said in a radio interview that these money-making ventures had become “the norm.”
“Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd whispered to me yesterday (Thursday). He said, the one who will take charge of BuCor must have intestinal fortitude, inside out. Someone who cannot be bribed,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lacson supports the proposal of the Department of Justice (DoJ) to dismantle the 300-hectare NBP compound in Muntinlupa City and relocate it to a new location under a long-term lease, wherein proceeds would be used to finance the construction of prison facilities nationwide.
He said the government could also generate at least P60bn if it decided to sell the NBP compound at P20,000 per square metre.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has reported that a total of 353 former convicts — out of the 1,914 — released under the GCTA Law have surrendered to police stations nationwide.
The PNP said 234 of them had already been turned over to BurCor In the House of Representatives, the Makabayan bloc also yesterday said the president’s bloody and tyrannical campaign against drugs, crime and corruption collapsed in a loud thud with the confirmation that over 1,600 convicted rapists, killers and drug lords were freed via the cash-for-release racket under the Duterte administration.
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