MANILA - Detained Sen. Leila de Lima slammed her fellow senators Panfilo Lacson, Richard Gordon, and Francis Tolentino for putting the focus on her in the discussion of the alleged abuses in the grant of good conduct time allowance (GCTA) for prisoners.
During Thursday’s Senate hearing, Lacson presented former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos and National Bureau of Investigation intelligence agent Jovencio Ablen Jr., who claimed they delivered money to De Lima’s house on several occasions when she was still the justice secretary.
Ragos and Ablen are two of the state witnesses in the drug cases against De Lima. They said De Lima received bribe money from New Bilibid Prison inmates supposedly to fund her 2016 senatorial bid.
De Lima has repeatedly denied this allegation.
The discussion then shifted to the implementation of the GCTA during De Lima’s stint as justice chief, in which Gordon claimed De Lima probably abused the system to earn money.
Gordon said unscrupulous officials had to find another source of bribe money after a crackdown on illegal activities at the Bilibid, led by De Lima herself in 2014.
“Tandaan niyo yung GCTA pumasok in the middle of the term of De Lima as secretary of justice, when she was already accepting money kuno from these people,” Gordon told reporters.
(Remember that the GCTA law was enacted in the middle of the term of De Lima as secretary of justice, when she was already allegedly accepting money from these people.)
“Nung nilinis niya ang kubol… nakita niya madali pala kumuha ng pera sa mga preso na ito, mas malaki makukuha natin kung i-offer mo ang GCTA. Iyan haka-haka ko lang ‘yun pero the point is sino ang gumawa ng IRR (implementing rules and regulations)? Sila rin.”
(When she removed the 'kubols'… she realized it was easier to earn money by granting GCTA to prisoners. That is my assumption because who did the IRR anyway? It was them.)
The Office of the Ombudsman has asked De Lima and former interior secretary Mar Roxas to clarify the IRR they drafted for the early release of prisoners based on good conduct credits.
The two have blasted the current administration for using them as scapegoats for the erroneous implementation of the GCTA law of present BuCor officials, including its recently sacked chief Nicanor Faeldon.
Republic Act 10592, which expanded the GCTA given under the Revised Penal Code, was signed in 2013 under then President Benigno Aquino III and was meant to decongest prisons and give reformed inmates a new lease on life.
But senators heavily criticized the law’s implementing rules as these supposedly did not fully follow the law, which states that recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes should not benefit from the GCTA system.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the law had various and conflicting interpretations.
Faeldon came under fire after approving the release of convicted rapist-killer Antonio Sanchez on account of good conduct.
In response to today’s developments, De Lima said Gordon “steered away the discussion from the violations” of Faeldon and Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, also a former BuCor chief, in connection to the GCTA controversy.
She also hit Gordon for insinuating that “the IRR was written to achieve corrupt ends.”
“The IRR reflected the letters of the law. Any problem they have as a result of the implementation of R.A. No. 10592 lies with the law, not the IRR,” De Lima said in a statement.
De Lima also hit Lacson for asking “primarily leading questions” to Ragos and Ablen. Lacson based his questions on the affidavits of the two.
She also slammed Tolentino for attempting to have Ragos “confirm prior fake stories which were already debunked.”
At the hearing, Tolentino, who lost to De Lima the 13th Senate spot in the 2016 elections, suggested that detained senator had knowledge of the illicit activities at the Bilibid.
“I guess parliamentary courtesy, delicadeza, even basic human decency is out the window in the halls of the Senate,” De Lima said.
Minority Sen. Francis Pangilinan defended De Lima, who he said was being used as a scapegoat in the GCTA mess.
“Paano nalihis ang usapin mula kay Faeldon at napunta kay Senator de Lima? Hindi kapani-paniwala ang pag-ugnay kay Sen. Leila sa kalokokohan at korupsyon ng BuCor sa ilalim ng pamumuno ni Faeldon,” Pangilinan said in a statement.
(Why was the discussion diverted from Faeldon to Senator De Lima? Linking De Lima to the corruption at BuCor under Faeldon is unbelievable.)
“Also, it goes against all sense of fair play to drag the name of the already incarcerated Senator Leila de Lima to muddle the scandal involving Bilibid officials caught ordering the release of rich convicted criminals, contrary to the law that is meant to give justice to poor, powerless detainees who should rightfully be released for good behavior.”
Pangilinan said De Lima, now detained in the police headquarters in Quezon City, should be allowed to “defend herself in the Senate hearing that is using her as scapegoat in the scandal that has blown up in their face.”