Aquino: How can you be kidnapped in Bilibid?By Jerome Aning, TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
President Benigno Aquino III and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima made one thing clear on Friday —they were still not swallowing road rage killer Rolito Go’s claim that he was abducted from New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
“How can you be kidnapped inside Bilibid?” Mr. Aquino asked. “How could the kidnappers get in there?”
De Lima was more blunt.
“There is one theory that he was not really at the minimum security compound,” she said, referring to Go’s claim that he was abducted by four men while he was about to return to the NBP’s main compound. “There’s information that he had been gone for two days and one night. When his absence was exposed, they were constrained to come up with this abduction story.”
“The NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) does not believe his version,” De Lima told reporters. “But we don’t want to [make] a conclusion right away while the evidence is not yet complete.”
Go claimed on Thursday that the four men accosted him outside Ina ng Awa parish church at the minimum security compound, identified themselves as NBI agents and then forced him and his nurse-nephew at gunpoint into a car that took them to Batangas province.
According to Go, he and his nephew were freed on Wednesday after he was made to believe a ransom had been paid by his wife for their release.
Crackdown on syndicates
De Lima said it was also “unavoidable” that the investigation would be expanded following reports that there had been at least three abductions of rich inmates inside the NBP. She asked the Bureau of Corrections to give her a report on the three incidents.
The President sought a fresh crackdown on syndicates in the NBP out to sabotage the reforms initiated by prison officials.
“There are many syndicates there and that’s what we want to dismantle,” Mr. Aquino told reporters. “The issue of overcrowding should also be addressed. There are a lot of things that need to be done. We’re heading in that direction. Reforms are being undertaken.”
The President wondered why Go’s caper still happened despite the reforms instituted by Bureau of Corrections Director Gaudencio Pangilinan, who has gone on an indefinite leave while Go’s case is being investigated.
“The question I want answered is: Did somebody foul up or was somebody sabotaging the reforms of Director Pangilinan? Was he set up? How deep are the roots of these syndicates now operating in Bilibid?” Mr. Aquino said.
“And once and for all, how do we make sure that the prisoners there are reformed, instead of getting better in their criminal activities?”
Police said their investigation showed Go and his nephew were “forcibly taken” from the prison.
Mr. Aquino, still in disbelief at how Go could have been abducted by armed men, said: “How could somebody have escaped in the face of the reforms?” He reiterated that those who failed to do their job “would be held accountable.”
“The minimum expectation was that what happened should not have happened. There is an investigation to find out why this happened. Whoever has shortcomings should be held accountable,” he said.
Mr. Aquino also questioned the presence of “kubol” (temporary shelters) in the penitentiary.
“The kubol should not be there. Is it right for him (Go) to keep a house behind the Ina ng Awa church?” he said. He also said prison guards needed to undergo training.
Mr. Aquino also questioned the prudence of shortening an inmate’s prison term for good conduct.
He said: “When you get in, there is what they call good conduct allowance. This is not the fault of Director Pangilinan. If you behave, you’ll get some sort of a discount in your sentence. But I’ve always wondered: How can you not behave when you’re thrown in the company of the toughies? In effect, you’re being rewarded for trying to survive.”
De Lima, who has spoken with the cancer-stricken convict, said the NBI would interview Go and ask him to put down in writing his version of what happened.
The NBI will also talk with Go’s nephew, Go’s sister Julie who supposedly negotiated with the abductors, people at the minimum security compound who could attest to Go’s presence there and New Bilibid chaplain Msgr. Roberto Olaguer.
“He (Go) said last night that there were people who could confirm that he was really at the compound. He is pointing, for example, to Monsignor Olaguer,” De Lima said, referring to Go’s duties at the parish church that the chaplain administers.
“We will check his presence in the church right before or the day that he was supposed to have been abducted,” she added.
De Lima said calls made on mobile phones used by Go’s relatives would also be checked to see if these would back up the kidnap story.
She said NBI officials found “ridiculous” the claims of the alleged abductors that they were NBI agents.
“We just laughed at those claims,” she said. “Even Go did not believe it because it was so ridiculous.”
Go, formerly a construction magnate, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the killing of motorist Eldon Maguan in 1991 during a traffic altercation. He has been in jail for 18 years and is due to be released next year.