Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), the agency that oversees rehabilitation process of prisoners, is fraught with allegations of corruption and anomalies. Henry Omaga Diaz investigates controversial issues in this episode of Krusada.
Ideally, a progressive society gives those who have committed wrongdoings an opportunity to change and redeem themselves after receiving due punishment for their crimes.
But how can that be achieved when the agency that oversees this rehabilitation process is fraught with allegations of corruption and anomalies? How can prisoners turn their lives around when the system itself needs reform?
In this episode of Krusada, Henry Omaga Diaz investigates controversial issues surrounding the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor). BuCor is in charge of the supervision of seven prisons nationwide. With the well-being of about 36,000 inmates at stake, strict scrutiny is required of BuCor whose obligation is to safeguard prisoner rights.
|A roll call is called among inmates of New Bilibid Prison.
New Bilibid Prison or “Munti” houses about 20,000 inmates convicted of heinous crimes. However, under BuCor’s alternative learning system, prisoners are able to study and learn different skills which will aid them in reentering society.
The alternative learning system is an integral part of BuCor’s rehabilitation process. But issues such as smuggling illegal drugs, prostitution and VIP treatment for influential inmates still abound.
According to PSO II Danilo Dador, Commander of the Guards in the Maximum Security Prison, they also suffer from severe lack of manpower. “One custodial personnel is equal to 80 inmates when it should be one is to five.”
The prison guards also complain of meager salaries and promotions.
Eduardo Gabuhat has worked in Munti for over 30 years. Despite performing duties fit for a superintendent, Gabuhat’s rank remains Prison Guard 1. He is only able to bring home P2,000 a month.
Prison guards are not the only ones who bear hardships. The budget for three meals a day for a single prisoner is only fifty pesos. At night they forced to sleep in overcrowded rooms.
It is not surprising that a scandal broke out when BuCor reportedly spent about P2 million pesos for President Aquino’s visit. Half a million each was spent for rental of an air-conditioned tent and tarpaulin printing. More than P200,000 was spent for carpet rental.
Gaudencio Pangilinan’s short term as BuCor director is already tainted with allegations of transgressions. Krusada toured the various improvements made within the administration building which consisted of modernized conference rooms, offices and comfort rooms.
However, it was found out that Pangilinan’s projects did not undergo the bidding process. According to RA 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act, contracts regarding government projects must undergo a public bidding.
|Gaudencio Pangilinan, BuCor director, answers allegations
against him by Kabungsuan Makilala
According to Atty. Dennis Santiago, Executive Director of the Government Procurement Policy Board, bidding is done to ensure that the government gets the best quality and price.
Instead, Pangilinan’s projects were divided into smaller ones not exceeding the amount of P500,000. In this case, the approval of Pangilinan would be enough for the project to suffice. According to Santiago this is called “splitting of contracts” which is a violation of Commission on Audit (COA) rules and RA 9184.
Kabungsuan Makilala exposed these anomalies. He is a BuCor employee and a former member of the Bids and Awards Committee of Munti before being transferred to Davao Penal Colony.
Makilala filed a complaint against Pangilinan which sparked a probe by Justice Secretary Leila De Lima.
Pangilinan claims that Makilala was a problem employee and is not a credible whistleblower. Makilala, on the other hand, revealed that he had documents about the anomalous dealings in BuCor.
In copies that Krusada obtained, it was discovered that there were two companies that BuCor frequents, Dotgain Solutions Incorporated, which in a month had nine transactions with BuCor, all of which were under P400,000 and had a total of about P4 million pesos and Grand Potential Press Incorporated which had four transactions with BuCor with a total of P1.5 million. Krusada did not find both companies in their given addresses.
Pangilinan maintained that the splitting of contracts followed procedure and that they “did not steal anything.”
After more than a month of investigations, the probe committee came up with a recommendation regarding BuCor controversies.
Sandra Cam, president of the Whistleblowers Association of the Philippines, obtained copies of the results and revealed that the panel recommends a preliminary investigation for the criminal liability of Director Pangilinan, his Chief-of-staff Venancio Santedad, and members of the Bids and Awards Committee because of failure of several projects to undergo public bidding, violating Republic Act 9184.
It was also recommended that administrative charges be filed against Pangilinan and Santedad.
It is now in Malacanang’s hands whether to heed the recommendations in the report and start the process of change in government agencies. - With Carla Mas, Intern, Krusada
April 19, 2012