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.