'Code of silence' shrouds corruption in prisons, senators told

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 12 2019 01:05 PM | Updated as of Sep 12 2019 01:27 PM

Bureau of Corrections Chief legal, Atty. Frederick Anthony Santos, listens during Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigation on the alleged selling of Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) held inside the Philippines Senate in Pasay City on September 12, 2019. Mike Alquinto, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- Bound by a code of silence, guards allow inmates at the national penitentiary to smuggle nearly anything from mobile phones and liquor to female entertainers, an official and former officer of the prisons bureau told senators Thursday.

The bribes range from P500 to P1,000 for cellphones and liquor, and "out of mercy" some guards would just confiscate banned items without lodging additional charges, said BuCor Legal Division Chief Frederic Anthony Santos.

Senators are investigating alleged corruption in the bureau, following allegations that good conduct time allowance or GCTA credits are being sold to inmates for their early release, including convicts of heinous crimes.

"Nababayaran po lahat (everything can be bought)," Santos told Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

The code of silence or "omerta" is strictly observed, said Santos, who had been with the bureau for 23 years.

"Ang sasabihin nyan, 'Sir sasabihin ko sa 'yo, maproprotektahan mo ako habang kasama kita, pero 'pag mag-isa na lang ako, wala ka' -- Pwede po s'yang mamatay roon either mabangunot o mabigti," he said.

(They'll say, 'Sir I'll tell you, you can protect me when I'm with you, but once your gone' — he can die in his sleep or by hanging.)

Sen. Panfilo Lacson then asked Santos if prisoners also bribed their guards for extending visitation hours and smuggling in food.

"Nagbibigay po sila (they give)," replied the BuCor official.

Rafael Ragos, a former BuCor officer-in-charge, also revealed that women were being allowed to enter Bilibib to "entertain" high-profile inmates as one of the "money-making" ventures of corrupt guards.

Some of the women ended up as girlfriends or wives of inmates, he said. There were instances when BuCor officials allowed inmates’ request to allow the female entertainers to enter prison to address the inmates’ "physiological needs."

Watch a livestream of the Senate probe here: https://news.abs-cbn.com/live.