WITH the expected detention of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. in Camp Crame, the Philippine National Police Custodial Center at the PNP national headquarters will literally house an “all-star” cast of government “felons.”
Estrada and Revilla, both former movie stars before they entered politics, will share the jail facility with several star-ranked police generals who were also detained for alleged fraud, including former PNP chief Avelino Razon and PNP comptrollers Geary Barias and Eliseo dela Paz.
Reuben Theodore Sindac, PNP Public Information Office chief, told The Manila Times that while the “star” detainees will be in the same facility, the lawmakers and the police generals will be held in separate buildings.
“They will not have the chance to mingle,” Sindac said.
According to the police official, there are other high-profile inmates who are detained in the custodial center but some of them could not be named for security reasons.
Among those in the jail facility are couple Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, leaders of the communist New People’s Army; Rizal Alih, whose deadly siege in Mindanao in the 1980s was even made into a movie; and suspects in the January 2013 Atimonan, Quezon, rubout that left 13 persons dead.
“There are many others but it is forbidden to tell,” Sindac said.
Enrile, Estrada and Revilla may be arrested soon for their alleged involvement in the P10-billion priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel. Their cases were raffled off to three divisions of the Sandiganbayan last week.
Pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles is being held at Fort Santo Domingo in Santa Rosa, Laguna province.
On the other hand, the former high-ranking PNP officials were ordered arrested over a multimillion-peso anomaly involving the supply of V-150 armored personnel carriers.
Razon, Barias, dela Paz and their co-accused have been in the custodial center since they surrendered last year. Sindac said the detainees receive no special treatment from the PNP leadership and that they are also subjected to the same rules that apply to the Tiamzons and others.
Unlike Napoles who occupies a bungalow-type detention facility in Fort Santo Domingo, the group of Razon has to settle for a four-person per room detention cell, which is reminiscent of their cadet days at the Philippine Military Academy.
Aside from Razon, Bariasa and dela Paz, the other accused in the V-150 deal are police officers Reynaldo Varilla and Charlemagne Alejandrino and their subordinates, Emmanuel Ojeda, Reuel Leverne Labrado, Alex Barrameda, Nancy Basallo, Patricia Enaje, Ma. Theresa Narcise, Analee Forro and Josefina Dumanew.
“The court entrusted their security to the Philippine National Police and we will do exactly what is expected of us,” said Sindac.
In Malacanang, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. justified the expenditures for the detainees, including the construction of new jailhouses for the three senators.
“You can check the National Budget for 2014 and the capital expenditures that are allowed for the Philippine National Police and the Department of Interior and Local Government, which has a BJMP [Bureau of Jail Management and Penology] and these are included in the work programs of the agencies concerned,” the Palace official said when asked if the construction of new “cells” for the lawmakers was tantamount to giving them special treatment.
Meanwhile, Rep. Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol party-list proposed the creation of a detention facility exclusively for high profile and high-risk suspects.
The lawmaker said this would stop the practice of granting house or hospital arrests to inmates or detainees.
Batocabe pushed for House Bill 1360 or High Profile Detention Center Act as the PNP finished building a 32-square meter bungalow detention center for Enrile, Estrada and Revilla who were charged with plunder in connection with the pork barrel scam.
“We need this [measure]because if we want to institutionalize transparency and accountability, we should have detention cells for high profile suspects. As it is, we settle for house, hospital arrests… some are even on resthouse arrest or a bungalow… because of security reasons,” Batocabe said in a news conference.
He was alluding to the cases of former President Gloria Arroyo who was allowed to stay at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center and former President Joseph Estrada who was detained from 2001 to 2007 in a resthouse in Tanay, Rizal, also for plunder charges.
“We need a detention facility exclusively for these people to ensure their security. It is a fact that they cannot be detained along with other prisoners. Can you imagine Sen. [Bong] Revilla Jr., who is very handsome, being jailed in Manila City jail? A lot of prisoners would surely want a shot at him. The same goes for senators Estrada and Enrile. Considering his age, anything bad can happen to him in a minute,” Batocabe said.
House Bill 1360 defines high profile suspects as those accused in non-bailable offenses except drugs charges, incumbent/former public officials/appointees accused of non-bailable offenses and those accused in high-profile cases.