SEN. Panfilo Lacson wants laws to address corruption and dismantle syndicates at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) as he lamented that high-profile inmates, not government officials, were running the penitentiary.
The senator on Sunday cited reports that some prisoners have become “more powerful” than Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials.
Lacson, in a radio interview, said the prison system was “no longer conducive” to reforming inmates.
“Parang over time, nag-evolve na ang mga anomalya riyan at saka na-organize na, parang mafia-style activities na, hindi na makaiwas ang BuCor officials (It seemed that over time, anomalies have evolved there and became organized, just like mafia-style activities, wherein BuCor officials could no longer resist),” he said.
“Katunayan may mga pinapatay nga (In fact, some [BuCor officials] have been killed),” Lacson said, citing reports that some inmates even had the courage to run gun-for-hire teams inside the NBP.
“At sila pa nagdi-direct ng operation ng droga sa labas. Maliwanag ‘yan (And they were the ones who direct drug operations outside [the NBP]), that was clear),” he added.
Former BuCor officials who attended the Senate investigation of prison anomalies confirmed several money-making schemes in the penitentiary.
“Ang isang maliwanag na na-establish dito, na parang ang mga high-profle inmates naging napakamakapangyarihan at napakayaman (What was clearly established here was that high-profile inmates have become very powerful and very wealthy),” Lacson said.
“Sila na halos ang nagpapatakbo ng kulungan, hindi na ang gobyerno (They are the ones who now actually run the prison [facility], no longer the government),” he added.
“Kasi sila na ang nasusunod, kung sino ilalagay sa kubol; sino ita-transfer sa malalayo, sa Iwahig o Davao; kung sino iko-confine sa hospital, kung sino pa isasama i-confine bukod sa kanila (Because they are the ones who are being be followed. They decide who should residing in the hut; who will be transferred to faraway places, to Iwahig [penal colony in Palawan] or Davao; who will be confined in the hospital, and who will join them in the [hospital]).”
The senator said that the situation “had gone so bad,” leaving prison officials helpless.
“Halos ayaw nang lumabas dahil enjoy na enjoy na sila roon. Naka-secure sila roon, kumpleto bodyguards nila roon. Kung sino gusto ipapatay naipapatay nila. Kumikita sila ng pera. Kung gusto nila ng babae nakakapasok ng babae (Inmates no longer want to be released because they are enjoying their stay there. They are secured, they have bodyguards. If they want someone killed, they can do so. They earn money. If they want women, women can be brought in [by BuCor personnel]),” he said.
Asked what remedial legislations must be pursued to reform the prison system, Lacson said, “Papunta tayo roon. Marami nang suggestions at maraming i-pa-pass sa mga bills tungkol dito (We’re going in that direction. There are many suggestions and several bills will be passed regarding this).”
The senator backed the measure of Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd that seeks to “regionalize” the establishment of major penal facilities — at least one each in Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.
Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigating the anomalies at BuCor, said Republic Act (RA) 10592, or the “Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law” opened a wider avenue for corruption at national penitentiaries.
“The GCTA Law opened the opportunity for the python to enter the poultry park and kill everything there. The law has good intentions and I don’t want to mention who pushed for this law, but it opened wider opportunities for corruption,” he said.
Gordon noted that the administration of former president Benigno Aquino 3rd “caught the world’s attention due to the maximum congestion of detention facilities in the country, which led to the inhumane condition of detainees.”
Hence, the GCTA Law was enacted to decongest jails, he said.
But when the implementing rules and regulations of RA 10592 was crafted, the law transferred the power to review and approve the release of inmates from the Department of Justice to the BuCor and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
In 2014, the BuCor started releasing prisoners.
“But a lot of fund-raising has transpired by then, which continued until the present. The GCTA Law provided another money-making scheme or opportunities for corruption in the New Bilibid Prison and other penitentiaries, where everything is already ‘buyable,’” Gordon said.