CORRUPT officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) took advantage of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law during the time of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd, according to my sources at the bureau.
One source said Aguirre ordered then-BuCor Director-General Benjamin de los Santos to transfer some rich Chinese convicts from the maximum security section to medium security at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
Enforcement of prison rules is more lax at the medium security section, the sources said.
The wealthy Chinese convicts, who were sentenced to life imprisonment, took advantage of the lax atmosphere by trafficking in drugs.
The sources said Chinese convicts paid off some officials at the Department of Justice and the NBP for the transfer.
De los Santos resigned after the drug scandal inside the NBP was exposed in the media.
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My sources gave me a credible tale if I am to connect the dots.
When Aguirre was newly appointed Justice secretary, I had him meet with retired police general Vicente Vinarao, a lawyer, who was appointed BuCor director twice: during the time of President Fidel Ramos and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Vinarao, former chief of the Criminal Investigation Service (CIS) of the defunct Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP), is considered the best BuCor director ever.
I told Aguirre, who was then my friend, that Vinarao could help him institute more reforms in the bureau by hiring him as consultant.
The scholarly Vinarao, 80, has written several books on the penal system. He has even submitted a draft of a bill in Congress that would create a Department of Corrections.
I also suggested to Aguirre that he might want to hire retired prisons superintendent Juanito Leopando as a consultant.
Vinarao, with Leopando as his hatchet man, cleaned up the NBP of recidivist convicts.
Escape of prisoners was also unheard of; Vinarao saw to that by warning guards that they would take the place of those who escaped.
I was with Vinarao at the firing range inside the NBP complex when Leopando reported that a helicopter was flying overhead at the NBP compound.
“Give the pilot a warning by firing blanks at the helicopter and if the helicopter still hovers overhead, fire live ammos. We have a machine gun. Use it,” he ordered Leopando.
The helicopter flew away.
Aguirre never hired Vinarao and Leopando as consultants.
In hindsight, I know why.
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During Vinarao’s time as BuCor chief, drug trafficking inside the NBP was unheard of.
If only Aguirre had hired Vinarao as a consultant, drug trafficking, which started during the time of Leila de Lima as Justice secretary, would have been stopped.
De Lima appointed Rafael Ragos BuCor director upon the recommendation of her lover-driver, Joenel Sanchez.
Ragos was allegedly one of the most corrupt BuCor (formerly called Bureau of Prisons) directors, according to my sources in the bureau.
He allegedly collected money from rich Chinese convicts and shared his loot with de Lima, the sources said.
Jovencio Ablen, an agent of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) whom Ragos brought with him to BuCor, was his collector.
Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson should be wary of Ragos and Ablen, my sources said, as the two are apparently sour-graping against de Lima.
Ragos and Ablen have testified against de Lima in the Senate in the current investigation into the irregular release of prisoners.
De Lima, in a handwritten dispatch, said that Ragos and Ablen had “confessed their involvement in anomalous activities…to save their own skin through their lies about me.”
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I’d like to take this opportunity to repeat my suggestion that the Duterte administration hire former officials of previous administrations who did well in their positions and were not corrupt.
These former officials can be hired as consultants as I had proposed to Aguirre in regard to Vinarao.
Veterans, because of their experience, have gained insights that newcomers to the job can adopt.
It’s like new soldiers can learn so much about the art of war from combat veterans who fought many battles in the past.
It seems that the current leadership has forgotten the saying that experience is the best teacher.
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We’re lucky to have William Dar at the helm of the Department of Agriculture when the outbreak of the African swine fever (ASF) came.
An agricultural scholar, Dar hired some people as consultants who are experts in their field.
One of these experts is Jerry Pelayo, former mayor of Candaba, Pampanga, who has a practical knowledge of partnership between local government units and the agriculture department.
Pelayo, a gentleman farmer, is popular among mayors and barangay officials as he is a former mayor of an agricultural town.
Dar can certainly use Pelayo’s expertise in coordinating with local officials on intelligence gathering about the spread of ASF.
Barangay officials have been asked to report any abnormal number of deaths among piggeries in their localities so those places could be quarantined.
Quarantine, or the act of isolating a place suspected of having a disease outbreak contains the spread of an epidemic.
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Here’s a silver lining to the outbreak of ASF in some parts of the country.
The Philippines has banned the importation of pork or the entry of pork products from countries with ASF.
Even the entry of canned pork into the country is forbidden.
As such, our pig farmers’ produce will be sold out as competition given by imported pork has been eliminated.
The downstream swine industry, such as the manufacturers of pig feeds, will also have its hands full catering to the needs of piggeries all over the country.
The country’s P260-million hog industry will flourish because it has no competition from imports. For now, at least.
There is a saying that in every crisis, an opportunity.