SEN. Francis Tolentino during Tuesday’s Public hearing of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights August 22, 2023 at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City watched how Michael Catarroja escaped from the highly-guarded maximum security compound of the corrections facility.
Catarroja, who managed to break out last July 7, was rearrested on August 18 in his hometown in Angono, Rizal. He first claimed he was able to escape by drawing a visitor’s stamp mark on his hand.
During the Senate inquiry, the person deprived of liberty (PDL) told Tolentino he crawled under the garbage truck to escape which he reenacted during the hearing.
For his part, Senator Robinhood Padilla appealed to officials of Bucor to respect the rights of the New Bilibid Prison inmates and not punish the majority who want to change for the better, just because of a few who engage in crime such as escaping and engaging in the drug trade.
Padilla also chided the recently recaptured Catarroja for putting his fellow inmates in hot water, saying they stand to lose some of their privileges because of his escape.
“Michael, alam mo humingi ka ng paumanhin doon sa bureau pero ang ilang bilanggo ang magdudusa sa ginawa mo, alam mo ba yan? Mababawasan ng privilege diyan kasi ganyan diyan kung may gumawa ng kalokohan diyan, damay lahat yan.
Pambihira, dapat nag-isip ka rin (Michael, I know you apologized to BuCor. But many inmates will suffer because of what you did. They will lose some privileges because of the acts of a few. You should have thought this over),” he said at the Senate hearing at the BuCor on Tuesday.
He urged the BuCor not to punish the other inmates, speaking as a “representative” not only of the Filipinos who elected him as senator, but also as someone who had stayed in Bilibid.
“Hindi po natin dapat i-put on trial ang lahat ng bilanggo dito. Ang dapat po natin ditong pagtuunan ng pansin ang mga bilanggong nagpapasok ng droga, yang mga tumatakas na yan, napakaliit lang po ng porsyento na yan (We should not put on trial all the inmates. We must focus on the few who bring in drugs and those who escape),” he said.
Padilla said investigators should focus on the details of Catarroja’s escape so they can make sure this does not happen again.
Likewise, Padilla sought to dispel what he called the “myth” that some inmates are allowed to escape from Bilibid to commit crimes such as robbery or murder.
“Kaya sana po maliwanagan po nating lahat kung ano ang myth, kung ano ang katotohanan sa kwentong kutsero, kung ano ang pampelikula lang at kung ano ang katotohanan (I hope we can separate myth from truth),” he said.