• Reforms long overdue at Bilibid Prison and BuCor


    ONE year and six months ago on May 28, 2013, President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd signed the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Act of 2013 or Republic Act 10575. The newly-minted BuCor modernization law finally replaced the “Jurassic” Prison Act of 1917 that was already 96 years old. Yet nothing much seems to have happened since then.

    Justice Secretary Leila de Lima then said that the new modernization law of the Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013 aims to upgrade prison facilities, professionalize and restructure the BuCor and increase the salary and benefits of its personnel. She added that the new law would usher in “a new beginning for BuCor” and would “serve as a guide in following the rule of law and keeping a clear conscience in running Philippine jails.”

    “With the new law, we can now improve prison facilities, recruit more corrections officers and implement more responsive reformation programs for inmates,” the Justice secretary said. “One of our long-term goals is to meet international standards in prison administration as required by the new law.” De Lima also emphasized the need to recruit more corrections personnel who will pass the new qualifications set by the new law. The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) is under the supervision of the Department of Justice (DoJ).

    Nothing, however, has really happened in the past one year, six months and two weeks
    except for the launch of the Implementing Rules & Regulations (IRR) of RA 10575 last December 12, 2014. In short, it took the DoJ 18 months to prepare the IRR of the prison reforms law that is supposed to be part of the “performance agenda” of the Aquino administration. It makes you wonder why the DoJ moves at such glacial pace.

    On the day the Bureau of Corrections Act was signed in late May 2013, de Lima said the government is now in the “early stages” of a regional prisons construction project that aims to address the shortage in correctional facilities. That sounded very promising, but nothing has been heard of the regional prisons project except last June for the planned transfer of the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) to Laur, Nueva Ecija.

    Under the new modernization law, operating prisons and penal farms should have dormitories, an administration building, security fences, a hospital, a recreation center, a training center, a workshop area and a visiting area. The Justice secretary said the new law “aims to improve and strengthen the culture of professionalism, competence, and integrity among BuCor’s corrections personnel and civilian employees.” Sounds very good to me.

    We can hope that the new administration in 2016 can finally start the long overdue implementation of the law. What the Aquino administration can do for now is a complete reorganization of BuCor. You wonder what has really prevented President B.S. Aquino 3rd from enforcing the much needed reforms as early as 2011 when the anomalies at the New Bilibid Prisons were already exposed in mass media.

    Issues at (NBP)
    The dawn raid last Monday, December 15, led by the Justice secretary showed the scale of corruption at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City. The discovery of the “pleasure villas” occupied by Very Important Prisoners or “VIPS” complete with by sauna, Jacuzzi, wide-screen LED TV sets, split-type air units and music studio was just too much. Even Secretary de Lima said she was “completely disgusted and beyond disgusted!”

    Other than the luxurious apartments of the VIPs that could pass for high-end condominium units, the strip bars, the life-size sex doll, expensive watches (Rolex and Patek Philippe) and more than P2.0 Million cash, what is deeply disturbing are that illegal items, such as firearms and drugs were also found. There is even illegal drug trade inside the NBP compound being conducted by the convicted drug lords serving their sentences.

    As the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) placed on its front-page banner headline last Tuesday, December 16, 2014, “Drug Lords Rule Munti.” According to the Justice Secretary, the “inmates control the drug industry in the country” as per joint reports of the PDEA. The removal of the 19 drug lords from the NBP and their communication equipment would validate their study that they are operating their business from inside the prison.

    The gravity of the situation at the national penitentiary and the security risks therein are shown by the need to have 500 fully-armed men from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP). They were in full battle-gear as if ready for action in a counter-insurgency mission against the New People’s Army (NPA), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) or the Muslim Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).Response of President B.S. Aquino 3rd

    The discovery of guns during the dawn raid last Monday elicited a tepid response from the Office of the President in Malacañang. The Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Philippine Star reported that President B.S. Aquino 3rd was “alarmed” and “bothered,’ respectively, by the smuggling of firearms and has given specific orders on what to do.

    The President of the Philippines should not just be “alarmed” or “bothered.” As Chief Executive, he should be OUTRAGED by the situation at the National Bilibid Prisons. He should go “BALLISTIC” because the reforms at the NBP that were supposed to have been implemented since 2011 – after another big scandal there broke out – has been a Big Joke. He has every right to get MAD! But he did not.

    It may be asking too much that President Aquino APOLOGIZE to the Filipino people that his administration has FAILED to address the serious problems at the NBP in the past six years and six months of his presidency. But that is the least that PNoy can do and yet he cannot. Instead, his Super-Stupid Communications Secretary said the “problem cannot be solved overnight” and blamed the past administrations.

    So the question goes back to what the Aquino administration has really done in the past four years and six months to address the very serious problems at the Bilibid?

    For starters, President Aquino can fire BuCor Chief Franklin Bucayu for command responsibility. He claims that he “did not know of the various luxuries enjoyed by the drug lords.” (ABS-CBN News, Dec. 16, 2014). Yet the office of the Bureau of Corrections is located inside the New Bilibid Prisons compound.


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    1. Who is this “JT” who writes as if he knows more than the people here in PH. He claims to be an OFW from ” abroad.” He does not even have a real name except “JT.” Perhaps too brave to comment with his posts, but too scared to reveal his true identity.

    2. What this columnist is saying is that during the Aquino administration, anomalies were found out in the running of the NBP/BuCor; a law was passed, and recently, after a year and 8 months, the IRR was adopted. But still no reforms, not even a reorg of the BuCor happened. Why? Because Bucayu is politically-supported? What’s happening is that government cannot move at a pace needed by the country. It would seem that we need one 6-year term to pass a law and IRR, and go through the slow motion of implementation (not even one move has happened), and then we need another president to implement the law. For one thing, based on the appropriation of funds, the BuCor/NBP did not get the funds it needs to move even the NBP to Laur! But one thing that does not cost money is to overhaul the personnel of BuCor/NBP to “change guards”, literally, aside from moving the prisoners to new facilities – properly spaced to prevent close quarters that motivate inefficiency and corruption among jail guards/officials. For this to happen, money is needed. Let’s see the next budget (2015) if it has sufficient funds for BuCor/NBP reforms. Show us the color of your money.

    3. The Bureau of Corrections Act should have been passed earlier in 2011 when the anomalies at the Bilibid Prison was first exposed under the Aquino administration. Then it could have been implemented effective January 2012. If done so, we would be results by now, such the relocation of the Bilibid Prison outside and far from Metro Manila and the construction of other regional prisons. At the latest, we would seen them in 2015 and/or first half of 2016!

    4. Asiong Ignacio on

      Command Responsibility. The highest person within the BuCor heirarchy needs to be accountable for this mess in our prisons. The DOJ Secretary at the least should be reprimanded for negligence of duties. She has been the DOJ secretary since Pnoy took over in 2010 and she did not know the illegal activities in the prisons! She used the assistance of well-armed men to do a shake up on his own turf, the prison. Come on. No excuse, she should resign at the least and then punish for negligence. Watch this, she will even be elected to the senate through the PCOS. This is how we reward incompetence. Only in the Philippines…I am ready to throw up.

    5. Roldan Guerrero on

      Mr. Rick Ramos must be wrong in his analysis. Complete upgrade is performed, it is even higher than the maximum specifications for international standards. Why? The NBP has turned into NBH otherwise known as NEW BILIBID HILTON where every kind of luxuries are availed….even to the extent of having high powered arms inside and doing online business in DRUGS and MUSIC Industry. The Aquino government must be given credit for this exemplary accomplishments!

      • I like the term used by my colleague and friend Rigoberto ” Bobi” Tiglao on the ” Bilibid Hilton! Lovely name.

    6. It is interesting to note that President Aquino merely reacted to the smuggling of firearms inside the Bilibid Prison and NOT so much on the illicit drug inside the NBP by the 19 convicted drug lords who control the drug industry in the Philippines from which the confines of prison.

      • I am sorry for disagreeing with you. Credit should be given to where credit is due! You should appreciate that this was found and being resolved during the Aquino administration! This was not discovered during Arroyo, Estrada, Ramos administrations. So stop blaming the current administration. My appreciation to the people who are now doing action on illegal activities in our society. These are challenges but a good start.

    7. chthonic monster on

      “alarmed” and “bothered” only? he must still be figuring out whom to point a finger to take the blame? or he run out of who to blame this time?

    8. The guards, supervisors, the Director, the Secretary and the President have all been bribed, or abetted, the crimes at the prison. The only defense they can utter is, “I did not know what was going on.” That is using incompetence as their defense.

      • Nope…the issue was found during Aquino administration. Credit should be given to his administration. We appreciate DOJ Leila De Lima and her department for making a swift action. All OFW are behind you!!

    9. Rogelio C. Lim on

      Para sa adminastration ni Noynoy ay mas madaling magnakaw kaysa mamahala ng gobyerno kaya inuuna nila pagnanakaw.

      • Disagree. Mahirap na magnakaw ngayon balita naming sa abroad at sa ibang bansa. Mabuhay ka Presidente!.

    10. Typo error. Third to the last paragraph should be only ” four” years and NOT “six”months. Sorry.

    11. Baka nandiyan sa Bureau of Prisons ang mga perang ninakaw ng mga Binays sa kaban ng gobyerno. Mas secured pa sa Bilibid nmagtago n pera kaysa sa bangko. Bualatin ang bilibid atmakita ninyo na nandian ang ibang cash na kinurako ng mga Binays