De Lima orders probe into Bilibid bribery by drug lords

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 06 2011 12:40 PM | Updated as of Jun 06 2011 11:54 PM

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - Another can of worms has just been opened at the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima ordered a probe into alleged bribery involving officials of the BuCor and the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) on the transfer of inmates from the NBP to penal colonies and penal farms managed by the bureau.

De Lima bared the Department of Justice (DOJ) received reports of transfers of national prisoners to the colonies/penal farms "to pave the way for the unhampered underground or clandestine activities of rival syndicates, particularly those involved in illegal drugs."

"Parang pinagkakaperahan yan ng certain BuCor officials na one drug lord would allegedly bribe or give money to a BuCor official just so that yung rival drug lord niya ay ipadala sa penal colony... kasi gusto nila nga to eliminate the competition.

"I'm shocked to learn yung mga allegations, mga reports about that although still being validated na the price would be between P2-million to P5-million para lang ipa-transfer ang isang drug lord sa isang penal colony kasi yun ang gusto ng rival nya," de Lima said.

Aside from the NBP and Correctional Institution for Women (CIW), the BuCor also maintains the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan; Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm in Occidental Mindoro; San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm in Zamboanga City; Leyte Regional Prison in Abuyog, Leyte; and the Davao Prison and Penal Farm in Panabo, Davao.

This reported anomaly will be part of the investigation of a technical working group (TWG) the DOJ will be forming in the coming days to address problems hounding the BuCor. De Lima warned officials and officers who may have had a part in any arbitrary or corruption-ridden transfer of inmates to the penal farms will be dealt with severely.

"We will file again charges against officials or personnel of BuCor who may be found to have made transfer of inmates to colonies not in accordance with the BuCor manual or worse, because of bribery or corruption," she said. 

The current Operating Manual of the BuCor authorizes the BuCor Director, upon recommendations of the Classification Board, to order the transfer of an inmate to a prison and penal farm but in a recently issued department issuance, de Lima ordered that all transfer of inmates to any of the colonies/penal farms shall bear her approval.

DOJ Department Circular No. 025 issued by the Justice chief on June 3, 2011 addressed to the BuCor Director and all penal superintendents is a product of numerous complaints by prisoners and their families on the alleged arbitrary transfer of prisoners to the penal colonies/farms, as well as reports this has become a source of corruption within the bureau.

Under the BuCor manual, inmates not eligible for transfer to a colony and penal farm may be transferred if he is physically and psychologically fit to absorb the rehabilitative program in a colony or if such assignment is therapeutically indicated.

Resigned BuCor Director Ernesto Diokno had ordered the transfer of several convicted drug lords to penal colonies in an effort to address the proliferation of the illegal drugs trade inside the NBP. 

"To the credit of former Director Diokno, isa yun sa mga latest moves niya dun sa campaign na yan against drug syndicates within NBP na meron syang several, I think almost 20, drug lords yung mga pina-transfer nya.

"Yung pagdadala o pagtatransfer ng suspected drug lords sa penal colony is actually one of the measures na para ma-cut ung kanilang activities while in the (New) Bilibid Prisons... but before that may mga anomalies tungkol dun sa mga arbitrary so sabi ko, I think it's time that i should be able to review mga ganung mga moves or plans to transfer individual inmates to make sure that this is being made strictly in accordance with  the guidelines under the BuCor operating manual because there are guidlines there and (this not be used) as a source of corruption," de Lima said.