Heads roll over Rolito Go caper
Bureau of Corrections chief, 5 guards sackedBy Jaymee T. Gamil, Philip C. Tubeza, TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Convicted murderer Rolito Go is back in the stockade, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief has gone on leave and five jail guards have been sacked as President Benigno Aquino ordered a probe into how a high-profile inmate disappeared from prison for at least 24 hours.
Police on Thursday said their investigation showed that Go and a nephew who was with him were “forcibly taken” from a minimum security compound at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City, but Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said this was being looked into.
Go disappeared from prison on Tuesday evening. Police were able to get him back on Wednesday at about 11 p.m.
De Lima said Mr. Aquino was dismayed by what happened, given that measures had been adopted following reports that prominent inmates had been allowed to “live out” in the past.
“He is disappointed because, you know, this kind of incident keeps happening,” De Lima told reporters.
“He (the President) said, ‘he thought all the safeguards and all the reform initiatives have been put in place to avoid similar incidents.’ He’s really disappointed and that’s why he immediately ordered an investigation,” she said.
De Lima said Mr. Aquino’s reaction was “How can it happen again, if it’s true that it’s abduction or kidnapping for ransom right within the NBP?”
Malacañang praised the Philippine National Police for recapturing Go. “It is good that while one agency was apparently remiss in its duties, another agency stepped up,” said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
Lacierda added: “To emphasize the principle of command responsibility and help the investigation, Bureau of Corrections Director Gaudencio Pangilinan has offered to go on leave, and the President has accepted it.”
Lacierda said the NBP would be under the direct supervision of De Lima “pending the appointment of an officer in charge.”
De Lima said Pangilinan went on leave “for the sake of an impartial and thorough investigation.”
“Let’s not preempt him,” De Lima said when asked if Pangilinan was expected to resign.
“Maybe he’s thinking about it, maybe he’s not yet thinking about it, maybe he has a good explanation, maybe he can explain the level of responsibility and the level of efficiency and competence that was expected of him as the overall administrator of the facility,” the justice secretary added.
5 guards sacked
The NBP sacked five BuCor personnel held responsible for Go’s disappearance from prison. They were the officer in charge of the NBP minimum security compound, Prison Officer 1 (PSO1) Gabriel Magan; PSO1 Serafin Geronimo, PSO1 Edgardo Cruz and Prison Guards Andrew Corre and Arman Soriano.
De Lima agreed that the public expected command responsibility to reach Pangilinan’s level but said managing the prison facility was difficult.
“That facility is beset with many problems, and in fairness, Director Pangilinan introduced many reforms when he took over,” she told Malacañang reporters.
De Lima was skeptical about the claim of Go’s family that he had been snatched from prison.
She said that according to the initial information from Pangilinan, the family of Go was claiming that he and his nephew, who was assigned to him as a nurse, “were abducted and that there was a P1-million demand.”
“But that information was met with so much skepticism by Director Pangilinan, by myself and by others. Even the NBI (now says) they do not find that theory plausible but we cannot yet rule out that angle,” she said.
De Lima added: “We might put him back to somewhere other than the minimum security compound.”
She said investigators would have to check the BuCor rules “because right now he is really a minimum security category on account of his age—more than 70 years old; on account of his illness—he is reportedly suffering from colon cancer, and that he is due to be released next year.”
Go underwent chemotherapy after he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2010. At a separate press conference at the PNP, he showed his colostomy bag to the media and said his nephew had been helping him for the last two months with his treatment.
De Lima did not rule out the possibility that an escape attempt would jeopardize Go’s release next year.
She said: “If it turns out that he was indeed abducted, then there’s no culpability on his part. But if he was an escapee, there are consequences to that. That might jeopardize his scheduled release next year.”
She said the justice department could file charges against Go, as it had done against former Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste over the latter’s infamous trip out of prison last year. Leviste is serving 12 years in jail for the 2009 killing of his friend, Rafael de las Alas.
In the press conference in Camp Crame, Go said four men who pretended to be National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents forcibly took him and his nephew, Clemence Yu, from the NBP compound around 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
He said he and his nephew were released on Wednesday night in Sto. Tomas, Batangas province.
“I was at Ina ng Awa parish on my way back to the minimum (security) compound when the four suddenly arrived, wearing IDs and claiming to be from the NBI. They had guns,” Go said in Filipino.
“I didn’t know them but they knew me. They said ‘Mr. Go’ and said they were taking me to the NBI,” he added.
PNP Director General Nicanor Bartolome presented Go and Yu at the press conference in Camp Crame.
Go said that despite the public uproar over his latest disappearance from the NBP, he was still hoping he would be freed next year.
“Time might be running out for me … I’ve served my full sentence. At least, I would still have the chance to be with my family,” he said.
Go said his abductors told him they were bringing him to the NBI because he was going in and out of the NBP compound without authorization.
Go said that, as a “living out” inmate since 2010, he was allowed to go out of the minimum security compound.
“I said I couldn’t go with them… but he put his arm over my shoulder and forced me inside a car,” Go said.
Bartolome said the culprits used Yu’s own car, a white Honda Civic (UUR 805), in taking them out of the compound.
Go said he and his nephew were taken to a safe house in Batangas and the kidnappers asked for a “big” amount from his family.
He said the kidnappers contacted his wife and that his wife agreed to give a smaller amount but they did not proceed “because they felt that my wife was accompanied by NBI agents.”
“At around noon time (on Wednesday), their leader wanted me killed,” Go said. He said that when evening came, his abductors talked among themselves and then decided to release him and his nephew.
“Maybe they saw that they couldn’t get much from me. And if they kill me, they won’t get any so they let me go,” Go said. “I thought they got (a ransom) but when I got home, my wife said no (ransom) was paid.”
Bartolome said the police recovered Yu’s car in Sto. Tomas, Batangas, and found an empty shell and one live ammunition inside.
“This jibes with the statement of Mr. Go that they opened fire inside the vehicle… According to Mr. Go, they even hit him on the head,” Bartolome said.
Go showed reporters a bump in his head and cuts in his right arm. Bartolome said Yu also had wounds.
Bartolome said his men received information on Wednesday night that Go and Yu had been released and had taken a bus. He said police waited for the bus in Alabang, Muntinlupa City.
“True enough, Mr. Rolito Go and Mr. Yu disembarked from a bus that came from Sto. Tomas, Batangas. The two were processed and given medical attention,” Bartolome said.
Looking tired and bedraggled, with tufts of grey hair sticking up his forehead, Go was brought back to the NBP at around 2 p.m. on Thursday.
Escorted by six jail guards, Go was brought straight to the maximum security compound and would be taken to the prison hospital, according to NBP Superintendent Richard Schwarzkopf Jr.
This means the revocation of Go’s “living out” privileges. He will also no longer be allowed to leave the maximum security compound.
Kidnappers from inside?
Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan said NBP officials were liable for negligence whether Go was abducted or escaped from prison.
If he did try to escape, Go stood to lose his application for parole and the chance to leave prison next year, he said.
Baraan said there was also a lapse in security because how did the kidnappers get in unless they are insiders, which is also a possibility.
Baraan said they would also look into allegations that Go was spotted at Resorts World in Pasay City last week, noting this was a “serious allegation.” With reports from Christine O. Avendaño in Manila and Marrah Erika Lesaba, Inquirer Southern Luzon