Deaths, Leila quizzed

Sen. Richard Gordon

Despite the frantic protest of detained Sen. Leila de Lima, her colleagues said the probe on her involvement in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) scandal will not stop as more resource persons are now willing to testify before the Blue Ribbon Committee.

Sen. Richard Gordon said the investigation will shift to serious breaches such as the killings of Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials and employees. He also asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to lead a probe on the angle that those slain were related to the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law.

In a statement, Gordon said at least 11 BuCor employees were killed since 2011 and most of them were shot to death by riding-in-tandem.

Recently, BuCor administrative officer Ruperto Traya Jr. was one of those killed.

Aside from him, corrections inspectors Angelito Padilla and Romel Reyes, security officer Kabungsuan Makilala, prison guards Willy Plasabas and Gerard Donato, Davao Penal Colony Supt. for Security Robert Quinto, NBP doctor Juan Villacorta, Supt. Francisco Abonales, and NBP Asst. Director for Security Rodrigo Mercado were also slain in questionable circumstances.

De Lima, in a statement, blasted Gordon for allegedly steering away the investigation from the violations of dismissed BuCor chiefs Nicanor Faeldon and Sen. Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa.

On Thursday, another BuCor officer, corrections inspector Edgardo Ferrer, was stabbed by an inmate inside the maximum security compound.

Ferrer is now in stable condition, but Gordon during the deliberations asked the BuCor officials how they plan to resolve the problem.

Dismissed BuCor Legal chief Frederic Santos said the penal agency was not able to give solutions to these cases.

On the part of Department of Justice (DoJ) Undersecretary Deo Marco, he said the agency was “alarmed” about the growing cases of killings.
“The DoJ is also afraid because there are reports that the inmates were already agitated. That’s why we have to put an end to all these issues,” Marco told the Senate panel.
Gordon asked the DoJ to urge BuCor to provide daily reports about the infractions inside the national penitentiary.

Strange occurrences
The Philippine National Police said it is looking into the circumstances on the series of deaths.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra previously said the NBI had ordered a probe on Traya’s death.

Traya served in BuCor’s Documents and Records Section which processes all the papers of the inmates who will be freed due to the application of the GCTA Law.

In a radio interview, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the Senate investigation will also seek to expose the corruption inside BuCor which he described as a “bottomless pit.”

“There are many people inside (the New Bilibid Prison) who are attempting to speak. They are just thinking how. Some are requesting an executive session. We don’t know yet what’s their motive, so we need to look into that, but they want to volunteer and they are approaching us through conduits, and common acquaintances,” Lacson said.

Barter hub Corruption-plagued New Bilibid Prison is under public scrutiny due to the Good Conduct Time Allowance mess. AL PADILLA

He noted the testimonies of former BuCor officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos and National Bureau of Investigation agent Jovencio Ablen already exposed that the corruption thrived up to the top officials of the bureau.

Lacson’s statement was affirmed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

In a text message, Sotto said they will possibly welcome new witnesses and resource persons in the next hearing.

“Most probably. Because there are elements now coming out of the woodwork,” he told the Daily Tribune.

On Thursday, Ragos and Ablen testified before the Senate panel exposing several money-making schemes inside the NBP, which involved several officials and former Justice secretary and now Sen. Leila De Lima.

They narrated anew their previous sworn statements which accused the lawmaker of receiving money from high-profile inmates in NBP.
Sotto said the Senate expanded the probe to find solutions that might be considered during the lawmaking process.

Ex-execs needed
“Former chief Faeldon is already down in the gutter. The expansion of the inquiry cannot be avoided because the present officials are mum, so the committee may summon previous officials to expound on the possible measures to finally put an end to the corruption in the NBP,” Sotto told the Daily Tribune.