House to probe Leviste caper should DoJ fall short
Congress will conduct its own investigation into the reported unauthorized trips out of prison of ex-Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste should the findings of the Department of Justice (DoJ) be “unsatisfactory,” Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares said yesterday.
Colmenares said the government should put a stop to prison scandals such as the Leviste caper and other similar cases.
“We will call for a congressional investigation if the DoJ investigation is unsatisfactory,” Colmenares said in a text message.
He said the DoJ should call former Bureau of Corrections directors Dionisio Santiago and Oscar Calderon to shed light on the supposed calls they had received from Malacañang in behalf of certain inmates.
Santiago was quoted as saying that powerful politicians had pressured prison officials to grant privileges to some influential detainees at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) when he was its chief.
First Gentleman called him
Santiago, a retired military general who also served as director of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, said on Thursday that former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo once called him to ease prison regulations for former mayor Reynaldo Yap of Misamis Occidental who was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder.
In the case of Calderon, the DoJ said it would summon him to explain how and why “sacred cows” were given “sleep out” or “living out” privileges at the NBP.
Even before Leviste
Colmenares said the “VIP treatment” certain prisoners received had been going on even before the Leviste incident.
“I would like to see the recommendations of the DoJ and the Department of Interior and Local Government based on their respective investigations, but if we are not satisfied with the results, we will file a resolution to investigate the cases,” he said.
Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., chair of the House justice committee, earlier decided to defer its investigation of the Leviste incident and wait for the DoJ findings.
Tupas said the committee would focus on other prison scandals such as the alleged drug trade inside the NBP.
Rep. Sherwin Tugna of the Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) party-list group said the Bureau of Corrections “has always been a corruption-ridden agency.”
“The burden of proof is now upon BuCor. I would venture to say it’s an act of heaven that the scandal of VIP prisoners was exposed. The agency is now in the spotlight and will be forced to clean up its act,” he said.
“The exposè is a kick in the butt, to put it bluntly,” Tugna said.
He said the Bucor should “once and for all fix its bad image.”
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