MANILA – A law that gave stronger powers to the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) may have to be reviewed in light of the recent discovery of anomalies at the New Bilibid Prison, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Friday.
“I am beginning to think that the law itself that supposedly strengthened the BuCor (and consequently diminished DOJ control over it) may have to be reviewed,” Guevarra said in a statement.
Republic Act 10575, enacted in 2013, removed DOJ’s control over BuCor and merely retained its administrative supervision of the controversy-hit agency, said Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete.
This, after a Senate inquiry revealed that the bureau did not follow a 2015 DOJ order requiring the department's approval for the release of convicts.
BuCor’s embattled legal division chief, Fredric Anthony Santos, earlier said the bureau no longer sought the DOJ’s permission for the release of inmates because the enactment of the BuCor Act, in his view, repealed the DOJ order.
“This is also the law used by BuCor’s legal to justify its assertion that its decisions as regards the release of high profile inmates do not need notice to, much less prior approval by, the [Secretary of Justice],” Perete said in a statement. “Some form of control over BuCor may be more appropriate.”
The alleged errors and abuses in the implementation of a 2013 law expanding the good conduct credits of prisoners became public after the BuCor, then led by Nicanor Faeldon, announced that convicted rapist-killer Antonio Sanchez would be released.
Faeldon had signed Sanchez’s release order but revoked it at the last minute due to public outrage.
Senators then uncovered an alleged scheme where the GCTA was being sold by unscrupulous BuCor officials and personnel to inmates seeking early freedom.
They said loopholes in the law’s implementing rules paved the way for the corruption in the granting of good conduct credits.
Perete said a joint committee from the justice and interior departments has submitted its proposed revision to the law’s implementing rule to Guevarra and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.
The Senate probe on the alleged sale of GCTA to inmates has also uncovered other alleged anomalies at the Muntinlupa prison, where some of the country’s most notorious convicts are imprisoned.
Reports revealed that convicted drug lords were paying large sums just to have access to cellphones, a news that had an anti-crime crusader worried as he noted that a significant amount of drug transactions in the country were being controlled from the state prison.
Former BuCor officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos also admitted in a Senate hearing on Thursday that corrupt prison guards allow female entertainers inside the prison in exchange for P30,000 a night.
He said inmates also engaged in nearly 24-hour gambling inside the prison, and some corrupt jail officials were also stealing from the inmates’ food budget.
Some BuCor personnel also sold cellphones, alcohol, and cigarettes to inmates at steep prices, he added.