Heads start rolling in Bilibid

By Michael Punongbayan, The Philippine Star

Posted at Dec 20 2014 09:59 AM | Updated as of Dec 20 2014 06:08 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Officials overseeing the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa were relieved yesterday as Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered an investigation of officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) in connection with special privileges enjoyed by several NBP inmates.

BuCor Director Franklin Bucayu, however, remained at his post even as another raid yesterday on the NBP revealed more hidden rooms with expensive appliances, a martial arts gym and sex enhancers.

Bucayu, who has rejected calls for his resignation, was the one who ordered the relief of Bucor deputy director for operations Celso Bravo and Davao Penal Colony Superintendent Venancio Tesoro pending administrative investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding the entry of air-conditioning units, computers and other banned items in the NBP.

Bucayu said the prison officials were relieved after their names appeared in several documents that allowed the entry of banned items in the prison facility.

The ombudsman ordered the creation of a five-member panel tasked to look into the possible criminal liability of prison officials.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said President Aquino ordered the DOJ “to do whatever it takes, to do all the necessary means and methods, to reclaim the facility from the clutches of these influential, moneyed drug inmates.”

De Lima led the raid at the NBP and found out how some inmates have been living lavishly inside the state penitentiary.

Hotel-like rooms, air-conditioning units, a music studio, cash and even drugs were discovered inside the NBP, a facility under the BuCor.

Sources said the ombudsman, on its own initiative, formed the investigating team on Wednesday.

Under the law, the Office of the Ombudsman can initiate probes even without complainants or formal complaints being lodged.

Sources said other privileges such as reports of inmates being allowed to leave the NBP would be included in the probe.

‘Don’t look at me’s

Bucayu said the relieved prison officials would be assigned to the BuCor main office while they are under investigation.

The BuCor chief, whose office is within the prison reservation, claimed he was not aware of the parties or concerts and other activities inside the NBP compound, pointing out that a jail superintendent runs the facility.

Nineteen convicts were removed from the NBP last Monday for allegedly operating 20 to 50 percent of the overall illegal drug trade in the country.

She warned that more heads would roll in the NBP if officials would not produce more contraband stashed inside the prison.

De Lima’s warning came amid observations that NBP prison guards misled the raiding team last Monday.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said the prison guards, who were tasked by the government as point men for the raiding team, misled them from the target kubols or huts.

Some of the prison guards reportedly acted as lookout to alert the convicts and give them ample time to hide incriminating evidence.

De Lima went back to the NBP and ordered the luxurious kubols dismantled.

She said she had first ordered the dismantling of the luxurious quarters in 2011 but BuCor officials apparently ignored the order.

De Lima said she opted to meet with the gang leaders, who according to BuCor officials were in charge of the maximum security compound, because she wanted them to know that she was serious in resolving problems in the NBP.

Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian said De Lima should create a special body to investigate the NBP mess.

Gatchalian also called for the mass resignation of all prison guards and officials of the NBP following the raid.

He said the NBP scandal “is not only shameful to the government but a total insult to the country’s judicial system.”

“How can this happen under the nose of the NBP management for years? This is totally unacceptable and all NBP personnel – from top to bottom – should resign immediately,” he said.

He said NBP officials should file their courtesy resignation to give the DOJ a free hand in replacing discredited and ineffective personnel.

“An independent body should also be set up to investigate all jail guards and prison officials, and the guilty ones should be charged in court and sent to jail,” Gatchalian said.

He said the “Very Important Prisoners” could not have built their luxurious and state-of-the art kubols without the knowledge and explicit permission from officials of the NBP and the Bureau of Corrections.” –Perseus Echeminada, Aie Balagtas See, Paolo Romero

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