National

Rich convicts, not gov't, have control of Bilibid – Lacson

Rich convicts, not gov't, have control of Bilibid – Lacson

MANILA, Philippines — The government has practically lost control of New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City to wealthy convicts, most of them drug lords, who have co-opted prison personnel by paying them off, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said on Sunday.

Lacson said the situation was quite evident from the testimony of two Bilibid prisoners and officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) who appeared in the five hearings conducted so far by the Senate justice and human rights committee.

He noted that the BuCor officials and the two convicts confirmed the sale of good conduct time allowance, prostitution, round-the-clock gambling and “hospital pass for sale” that prison officials have allowed to thrive in the national penitentiary.

The Senate inquiry, presided over by Sen. Richard Gordon, the committee chair, was triggered by the aborted premature release of Antonio Sanchez, the former mayor of Calauan, Laguna, who was sentenced to seven 40-year terms for the rape and murder of University of the Philippines Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of her friend Allan Gomez in 1995.

They run state penitentiary

“One thing clearly established is that it seemed that high-profile inmates [have] become powerful and rich that they, not the government, [are] virtually managing the state penitentiary,” Lacson said in a radio interview.

Besides ordering the place of detention of fellow convicts, he said wealthy prisoners had also been able to trade illegal drugs right from Bilibid.

“That means it has gone so bad that the government has become helpless and the inmates [are] the ones in control,” he said.

Lacson said the conditions had become so conducive to illegal activities that some convicts had opted to stay in prison since it allowed them to securely operate their nefarious businesses.

“They can order the killing of anyone they want dead. They earn money. If they want women, they can bring in women,” Lacson said.

President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies had claimed that the illegal drug trade in the state penitentiary flourished on the watch of Sen. Leila de Lima as justice secretary in the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

The President’s allegations eventually led to the indictment of De Lima, who investigated the killings in his brutal drug war, for drug trafficking based on the testimony of Bilibid convicts, including several convicted drug lords.

De Lima should be heard

Lacson said De Lima should be allowed to defend herself against claims blaming her for the erroneous application of the good conduct law that led to the premature release of more than 2,000 heinous crime convicts.

He said De Lima should also be given a chance to answer the accusations linking her to corruption in Bilibid when she was justice secretary.

Lacson said he had filed a resolution, coauthored by Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, urging the Senate to allow De Lima to participate in plenary deliberations through teleconferencing.

“I agree, as I believe, that Senator De Lima should be given an opportunity to rebut the accusations against her in the same forum. I hope the committee can agree on the mechanics to make it happen,” Lacson told the Inquirer in a text message on Sunday.

Asked if De Lima and former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas should be faulted for the flawed implementation rules of Republic Act No. 10592, the good conduct time allowance law, as raised by Gordon, he said: “It’s too early to tell.”

“Besides, there is no showing to support that theory as of yet. But that’s [just] me. Senator Gordon may have his own appreciation of the testimonies and other information that he has, which I don’t,” Lacson added.

Last week, De Lima took to task Lacson, Gordon and Sen. Francis Tolentino for their questioning of former BuCor officer in charge Rafael Ragos and National Bureau of Investigation agent Jovencio Ablen Jr., who testified against her in the legislative inquiries into her alleged involvement in drug trafficking in Bilibid.

Saving their own skin

Both Ragos and Ablen repeated their claims that De Lima received huge sums for allowing drug trade and other illegal activities to flourish in Bilibid.

In a handwritten dispatch, De Lima maintained that their claims were “false and malicious imputations,” pointing out that both Ragos and Ablen had “confessed in their involvement in anomalous activities … to save their own skin through their lies about me.”

“I take serious offense at Gordon’s arrogance and impudence to even insinuate that I benefited from the good conduct time allowance law without substantiating it with any corroborating testimonial or documentary evidence,” De Lima said.

She said the Senate inquiry presided over by Gordon virtually turned into “Part 3 of my continuing and relentless demonization and persecution.”

“I say they are the ones who accuse me because it was reported to me that they were practically the ones who testified for, if not guided, the testimonies of Ragos and Ablen,” she said.

De Lima lamented: “I guess parliamentary courtesy, delicadeza, even basic human decency, is out the window in the halls of the Senate.”