MANILA - Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. is clearly receiving special treatment despite all claims by both Revilla's camp as well as the Philippine National Police to the contrary, a civic leader said Monday.
John Silva, executive director of the Ortigas Foundation Library, was the first to point out the alleged VIP treatment of Revilla.
In an open letter to President Aquino, Silva pointed out that Revilla has a cell that is 10 times bigger than the one given to Aquino's father, the late Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., when he was jailed by President Marcos.
"Your dad didn't go to jail for stealing. He was into more heady stuff like a return to democracy, human rights and moral convictions. So why the hell are you treating these senators with kid gloves, these guys who can’t seem to recall, account, or sign off on billions of missing pesos?" he asked the President.
Silva said giving the senators privileges defeats the purpose of detaining them in the first place.
He said that while Senator Aquino had a "revelation" about the importance of democracy while in jail for eight years, the "pork barrel scam" senators are "just camping."
"They have private toilets. Senator Aquino had a chamber pot and he had to ask permission to go out. Kung naka-arinola ka at you are a former senator, somehow you might change your mind. Pero kung wala kang arinola, parang camping lang," he said in an Umagang Kay Ganda interview.
Silva said the public expects the pork scam accused to be placed in ordinary cells because so much money has been stolen from public coffers.
He said the public is never consulted when these elected officials are detained in much better jail cells.
VIP TREATMENT FOR VIPs
For his part, UST professor of political science Edmund Tayao said it is understandable that Revilla is getting VIP treatment since he has not been incarcerated in a regular jail in New Bilibid Prisons (NBP).
"They are VIPs so there must be VIP treatment. Actually yung reklamo na rats and night crawlers baka naman sinasabi lang nila to para ma emphasize na this is really a detention facility," he said.
Tayao noted the government may not have a choice on where to detain Revilla and other senators since they could be put in danger when allowed to mingle with ordinary prisoners.
However, he also said Revilla should be consistent with his earlier pronouncements that he is willing to be jailed, which means he shouldn't complaining about rats, cockroaches and the extreme heat at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center.
"Dapat walang ganyan reklamo. In the first place mabuti nga custodial center ang napuntahan mo, hindi Bilibid. He has yet to be proven guilty so it is understandable that he is in a temporary detention facility pero wag ka nang magreklamo kung may ipis diyan o ano pang makita mo," he said.
"It's a detention facility, not a hotel," he added.
Revilla is the first Philippine senator to be detained by authorities in connection with a massive corruption scandal involving lawmakers' priority development assistance funds (PDAF). He is accused of amassing P242 million from his pork barrel.
Revilla, who was detained at the PNP Custodial Center last Friday, has denied pocketing public funds.
On Monday, another opposition senator, Jinggoy Estrada, was ordered arrested for his alleged links to the scam.
NO VIP TREATMENT: PNP
Meanwhile, PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Reuben Sindac said the PNP only detains high-profile inmates when ordered by the courts.
He said the same food served to other inmates will also be served to the detained senators. The same rules will apply to all, he added.
"No VIP treatment, no special treatment for those detained," he said.
Palace Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said detainees who enjoy the constitutional right to innocence should be treated humanely.
Silva said there is a "disconnect" between the Palace line and the size of the cells given the pork scam accused.
"The cells are clearly much bigger. It's like the return of the wang-wang," he said.