MANILA - If convicted drug lord Ricardo Camata was indeed in a life-threatening situation such that he had to be immediately brought to a private hospital outside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), then why was he allowed to have a starlet and two reported dancers as guests inside his room?
Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III posed the question in an interview on ANC's "Top Story" on Thursday as he stressed that only close family members of a hospitalized inmate should be allowed by prison authorities to visit.
"Eh bakit may mga bisita pang babae doon? Nakakapagtaka na ang isang pasyente na inmate na may karamdaman na kailangan i-refer sa hospital ay may mga ganung bisita," Baraan said.
Closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera footage from the Metropolitan Hospital where Camata was admitted last May 28 showed starlet Krista Miller entering his room on the evening of May 31.
Miller went inside Camata's hospital room at 7:24 p.m. and stayed there until 8:21 p.m.
On June 1, two other female reported dancers also gave Camata a visit.
"That alone is a breach of our very strict protocols in the NBP," said Baraan.
"Naging guest daw yan (Miller) one time sa parang Mayflower Sagala Festival sa Bilibid. Siya raw ay nandoon, inimbitahan ni Camata. Even then, kahit na kilala na, hindi pa rin dapat pinayagan na bumisita yan," he told ABS-CBN News.
Camata, who is an inmate at the NBP's maximum security compound, was taken to the Metropolitan Hospital even without the consent of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima supposedly due to an "emergency" situation.
It is the protocol of the NBP to secure de Lima's clearance first before allowing the outside hospitalization of an inmate unless the case is an emergency, meaning it is a matter of life and death.
According to Baraan, he has asked Bilibid officials and doctors to explain why they decided to refer Camata to a hospital outside the NBP even if he only needed to consult doctors about his lung ailment.
"Eh kung consultation lang, hindi yun emergency," he stressed, adding that the CCTV footage even showed a "very strong" and not an ailing Camata.
"Gusto naming malaman kung tama yung kanilang recommendation kasi pwede abusuhin yan eh," he said.
NBP spokesperson Supt. Celso Bravo, however, maintained that the prison hospital does not have all the necessary equipment for some of the inmates' medical needs.
"Dahil wala pong equipment ang aming hospital para i-conduct yun pong mga laboratory test at wala rin po kaming mga espesyalista," Bravo told ABS-CBN News.
PRISON GUARDS WERE CAMATA's 'BUDDIES'
Meanwhile, Baraan also pointed out that Camata's prison guards "lacked professionalism" in securing the inmate, adding that they even looked like "buddies" as shown in the CCTV video.
"Buddy buddy sila kay Camata eh, they allowed him to get in and out of his room," he said.
The guards also just let the visitors go inside Camata's room without even asking them to sign a logbook or inspecting their bags, he added.
NBP Chief Supt. Fajardo Lansangan and 12 jail guards have been relieved of their posts due to the incidents.
The justice undersecretary said they may also file criminal charges against Lansangan and the 12 others, in addition to administrative raps.
At least two other high-profile inmates -- alleged bank robbery gang leader Herbert Colangco and another drug lord Armin Buratong -- were also taken to private hospitals last month.
Meanwhile, Baraan said they they are currently studying how to improve the country's prison system.
"Kasi ngayon, yung ating kulungan diyan talagang kung titingnan ng experts from abroad, iba talaga, hindi siya papasa sa kanilang mga standard," he said.
He said they are also looking at the proposal to transfer the NBP facility to Laur, Nueva Ecija, believing that it will help prevent rich inmates from getting VIP treatment from prison officials and guards. -- With a report from Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News