Cellphone use still rampant in Bilibid - Lacson

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 09 2019 02:19 PM

MANILA - The use of cellphones even among high-profile inmates at the New Bilibid Prison remains rampant, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Monday, as the Senate puts the spotlight in the anomalies hounding the state penitentiary.

Lacson said a recent raid on Bilibid cells yielded several cellphones, one of which belonged to Raymond Dominguez, the suspect in the killing of carnap victim Venson Evangelista.

Lacson said Dominguez even had Facebook posts showing photos of him with his girlfriend, identified as May Escasinas.

“Wala ng tinatago, so blatantly they are announcing tho the whole world,” Lacson said in a Senate inquiry into the alleged abuse of granting of good conduct credits for prisoners.

“Is this the kind of strictness in the policy of containing the entry or preventing the entry of contraband items especially cellphones?”

Lacson said he has also received information of other high-profile inmates “who openly post on Facebook,” but whose identities he withheld.

Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption President Arsenio Evangelista said Dominguez, detained at the Maximum Security Compound’s Building 14, allegedly funded the costly reconstruction surgery of his girlfriend who got shot at the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) compound in Muntinlupa in 2017.

“Somebody committed to Building 14 can provide medical attention all the way to Korea,” Evangelista said.

“This means the illegal drugs and other major activities [are] still proliferating there.”

Evangelista said Philippine Drug Enforcement Authority (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino shared to him that some unscrupulous BuCor officials and personnel allow inmates to possess cellphones at a high cost.

He said prisoners have to cough up at least P2 million just to have the privilege of using a smartphone. Signal jammers are also of no use as these were being turned off by BuCor personnel who are in cahoots with inmates.

He said Aquino confided to him that PDEA once had a satellite office at the NBP but this was removed.

Evangelista said allowing high-profile inmates to use cellphones would allow continued operations of big-time drug syndicates which carry out orders from their bosses inside the national penitentiary.

Lacson revealed that the cellphone usage remains a problem at NBP as the Senate probed the alleged corruption of the GCTA system.

A 2013 law expanding the GCTA for prisoners recently came under scrutiny following reports that it could benefit Antonio Sanchez, a former mayor of Calauan, Laguna convicted in 1990's rape-murder case that was among the most followed in the country.

A witness has since surfaced to claim that BuCor officials were selling GCTA for a price.

Lacson and Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier said witnesses have also surfaced to testify that hospital passes and several other prison benefits were being sold at the NBP.

Sotto said some BuCor officials and personnel were also involved in the so-called “tanim-kaso” scheme where inmates due for release are asked to pay in exchange for the dismissal of fabricated charges.