MANILA – Several key officials of the Bureau of Corrections who have knowledge of the supposed corrupt practices at the bureau offered to tell everything they know but backed out before Thursday's hearing, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Friday.
On the evening before Thursday’s Senate inquiry on the alleged abuses in the grant of good conduct time allowance (GCTA) for prisoners, BuCor legal division chief Fredric Santos and BuCor documents division chief Staff Sgt. Ramoncito Roque and several others asked, through an emissary, that an executive session be held where they could tell everything about the illicit activities at the New Bilibid Prison.
“Sina Roque, may ibang kasama, nagparating sa amin ng salita noong gabi na kung pwede mag-executive session, tell-all,” Lacson told dzMM.
“Nang kausap na namin, may hindi dumating at diumano ang rason may nakausap na abogado at pinayuhang huwag. Hindi ko alam kung may pumigil sa kanila at intimidate sila.”
(Roque and others offered to tell all in an executive session. When they were there, one of them did not arrive and the reason was the person was supposedly advised by a lawyer not to come forward. I don’t know if someone stopped or intimidated them.)
Lacson said he and Senate President Vicente Sotto III were willing to hear out the BuCor officials to finally determine what was going on inside the state penitentiary, but it appeared that the officials only wanted to save themselves.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on Thursday cited Roque, Santos, and BuCor Hospital doctor Urcisio Cenas in contempt for supposedly lying and being evasive when asked about the alleged anomalies in Bilibid.
“Baka sakaling magkaroon sila ng change of heart at sabihin ganito ang nangyayari riyan. 'Yun ang hinihintay namin. Willing kami magbigay ng legislative immunity o tulungan sila na maging state witness later on,” Lacson said.
(They might have a change of heart and tell everything happening there. That’s what we’ve been waiting for. We are willing to give legislative immunity and help them become state witnesses later on.)
A witness earlier accused Roque of asking for money in exchange for expediting the release of her partner who is detained at the Bilibid’s minimum security compound. Santos, meanwhile, earned the ire of senators for supposedly being coy about his role in the granting of the good conduct credits.
The Senate is currently probing the alleged sale of GCTA to inmates, but the hearings have 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 that corrupt prison guards allow female entertainers inside the prison in exchange for P30,000 a night.
He added 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.
Lacson said the ills in the state penitentiary need a “surgical” solution.