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PBBM admin needs to really stop old practice at Bilibid

November 6, 2022 Alfred P. Dalizon 528 views

Alfred DalizonI’M referring to the complete failure of past Bureau of Corrections’ leaderships to really address the age-old problem in the agency which is supposed to be in charge with the custody and rehabilitation of lawbreakers in the country who have been sentenced to three years of imprisonment or more.

With a 2021 budget of P3.59 billion, the New Bilibid Prison is now in the center of another major controversy triggered by the killing of radioman Percy Lapid and a supposed ‘middleman’ in the Lapid hit job, an NBP prisoner named Crisanto Villamor who was believed to have been suffocated to death with the use of a plastic bag by his fellow inmates.

I still remember that in December 2014, now jailed former Senator Leila de Lima ordered BuCor authorities to dismantle all special ‘kubols’ inside the NBP in Muntinlupa City including the supposed luxury village of some high-profile inmates.

The order was given days after reports said that some ‘kubols for VIPs’ inside Bilibid were not destroyed by authorities in an earlier raid triggered by intelligence reports that high-profile inmates were operating their illegal drug business behind bars.

That year, government authorities discovered the lavish lifestyle of at least 20 high-profile inmates–many of them already dead reportedly due to COVID-19- who turned their ‘kubols’ into virtual vacation villas complete with air-conditioning system, jaccuzi, sauna bath and modern appliances and gadgets as well as high-powered firearms.

Nearly eight years after, the situation it seem has not changed inside NBP as evidenced by a raid ordered by BuCor officer-in-charge, retired Armed Forces chief of staff General Greg Catapang last week which yielded 7,512 canned beers, suspected shabu, cell phones and deadly weapons inside the NBP’s maximum security compound.

The official said that a total of 3,270 cans of beer came from members of the Batang City Jail Gang, 2,236 from the Happy Go Lucky gang and the rest were from Sigue-Sigue Sputnik. At least 31 more cans were confiscated from BuCor personnel, during a follow-up inspection on Oct. 31, he added. Catapang said the beer in cans are being sold at P1,000 each.

The latest chapter of corruption in the sprawling prison compound has to be explained by the former BuCor leadership headed by Director General Gerard Bantag. As many sources have been telling me, there is also a need for Catapang to order an investigation into the continued presence of ‘kubols’ for VIPs inside NBP.

These ‘kubols’ are being rented to moneyed prisoners for as low as P15,000 a month depending on its size. The bigger the ‘kubol’ is, the bigger the rent is, many officials involved in the investigation of the Lapid and Villamor killing told me. The question is: who are getting their rent?

Since I became a police reporter way back in 1989, I have become privy to many tales of corruption inside NBP where drugs, wine, guns and women are being smuggled right under the noses of prison authorities. The Bilibid prison has also been a known source of ‘hired guns’ since the 80s and it became evident anew in the assassination of Lapid.

Money also flows inside the prison facility as evidenced by the 2014 raid in which some of the prisoners checked were found with over P2 million each. A former prison official told me they have to use money counters to count the recovered bills.

The widespread corruption inside NBP and obviously, in other penal facilities in the country is a truth that has frustrated so many. Instead of becoming a facility that will rehabilitate convicted felons, the NBP has become a virtual ‘criminals’ academy’ in which petty thieves and small-time drug dealers evolve to become big-time in their own field.

I happened to know some of the many officials who headed the BuCor from 1998 to date. They include Generals Pedro Sistoza, Dionisio Santiago, Vic Vinarao, Carding Dapat, former PNP chief Oca Calderon, the late Gen. Totoy Diokno, Gaudencio Pangilinan, Frank Bucayu, Rainier Cruz, Rolly Asuncion, Attorney Benjie delos Santos, Gen. Valfrie Tabian, former PNP chief-turned Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa, Nick Faeldon, retired Gen. Melvin Buenafe, Bantag and now Catapang.

I believe that each of them did their best to address corruption in BuCor but the question is did they succeed? Were they able to really get the nod of the Department of Justice and the national government in the past to make necessary changes in the agency?

Were they able to really computerize all the records of the country’s prisoners so that there would really be an end to the problematic ‘carpeta system’? Were they really able to address the corruption problem when it comes to contracts to supply the bureau with say daily rice, salt, dried fish, vegetables and the like to feed tens of thousands of inmates thrice a day?

Did they get the authority to sign big ticket contracts such as P10 million and above without the DOJ getting into their way? I’m saying this because a former BuCor chief told me that during his time, the highest contract he can sign is worth P5 million. The official confided to me that contract for the procurement of other supplies P5 million and above were coursed thru the DOJ.

I just can’t imagine how much money is needed to feed some 25,000 prisoners serving their time inside Bilibid three times a day. However, simple arithmetic will tell that if a kilo of rice can feed 4-5 men, a 50-kilo sack of rice can only feed an average of 250 persons.

Just imagine how many sacks of rice is needed to feed 25,000 people thrice a day inside Bilibid. Then how many kilos of salt, meat, fish and vegetables as well as how many bottles of soy sauce, cooking oil and other ingredients have to be procured to prepare food for the same number of prisoners.

As proven time and time again, convicted criminals who are well-connected and have the money are the ones benefitting from prison corruption. These prisoners are the ones being sought by prison authorities since they can ‘deliver’ what they need.

Thus, there is really a need for the PBBM administration to restudy and recognize the corruption problem inside our jails and work much harder to address them by offering better solutions, a much stronger response to prevent cases of inmates living like ‘Kings’ and kowtowing to orders from their masters to kill a target in the outside world and later ‘silence’ a potential squealer.