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Inmate at New Bilibid Prison bares paying for freedom

/ 07:24 AM September 10, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — A prisoner set to be freed next month confirmed to the Senate on Monday that he had spoken with a Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) official to buy his early release from jail.

Godfrey Gamboa, who was sentenced to four years in prison for falsifying public documents, also spoke about his pity for elderly minimum security inmates who were dying behind bars while those who had committed grave offenses and were detained in maximum security were being freed early.

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Talk was rife among prisoners that early release could be bought, said Gamboa, a minimum security inmate.

He also disclosed that contraband like cell phones and television were being allowed into New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City in exchange for payment to the guards.

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He said he wanted to tell the truth despite the possibility of being harmed for it.

“I know I will be killed. If I am returned [to jail], I know what will happen to me,” he said.

Gamboa will remain under Senate custody through the inquiry of the justice committee into the application of Republic Act No. 10592, the law that rewards good behavior in detention.

Gamboa’s testimony corroborated the earlier statements of his partner, Yolanda Camilon, who said they had paid P50,000 for his release on good conduct.

But he was not released, prompting them to demand return of their money and to eventually testify before the Senate.

Just helping

The BuCor officials they implicated — Senior Insp. Maribel Bansil, Corrections Officer 3 Veronica Buño and Staff Sgt. Ramoncito Roque — denied involvement in the sale of good conduct credit.

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Bansil, to whom Camilon said she gave the bulk of the payment, said she only brought Camilon to Roque on “good faith.”

Camilon had asked for help, Bansil said.

“We’re public servants and she is our client,” she added.

She also tussled with Camilon and Gamboa when the couple quoted her as saying that Ruperto Traya, a BuCor chief administrative officer who handled inmates’ records, had received death threats and was going to be killed.

Gamboa said he made light of the comment then as he thought Bansil only said that so that he and Camilon would stop badgering her.

Traya was shot dead in Muntinlupa on Aug. 27.

Trying to turn the tables

According to Bansil, it was Camilon and Gamboa who were angry with Traya because Gamboa’s credit of 95 days for good conduct was reduced to 45 days.

She said Gamboa had even warned that if he got fed up, he would go to his relative in Malacañang to complain. Gamboa denied this.

Bansil also said she had proof that Camilon had visited Malacañang.

Buño also disputed Camilon’s earlier statement that she had called Camilon on the phone to follow up the payment for Gamboa’s release.

Hiding something

Buño stuck to her story even after Camilon played back a recording of one of their phone conversations. Buño said it was not her on the phone.

But senators cast doubt on the BuCor officials’ denials, with Sen. Richard Gordon noting that Bansil and Buño’s cell phones showed that only a few text messages and calls were logged, indicating that they had deleted some of their phone records.

“They’re really hiding something,” Gordon later told reporters.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III also said that to his layman’s ear, the voice on the recorded call appeared to be Buño’s. But to be sure, he would have the call subjected to a voice analysis, he said.

Meanwhile, Gamboa also said inmates could pay guards to be able to bring in prohibited things.

Payment to bring in cell phones depend on whether the device has a touch screen or a keypad, he said. The payment is around P500, he said, without specifying the phone.

For P1,000, an inmate can also have a television, he said.

Facebook use

Gamboa said he had heard that there also used to be payment for conjugal visits, but this was stopped during the time of BuCor chiefs Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa and Nicanor Faeldon.

Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson disclosed that inmates were able to openly use mobile phones, and they even posted messages on Facebook.

Lacson presented a 2017 Facebook photo showing Raymond Dominguez, who was sentenced for carjacking, with a woman.

“This would indicate overconfidence, that they’re protected inside and no matter what they do, they’re protected,” he said.

The photo was posted by the woman and appeared to have been taken inside Bilibid, Gordon said.

He said the post showed that inmates’ visitors could bring in prohibited items, meaning the guards were not as strict as they claimed.

Lacson asked BuCor legal officer Fredric Santos if he had ever used illegal drugs.

When Santos answered in the negative, Lacson said he had received information that Santos had a drug session with Chinese drug lords inside the jail.

He was gathering evidence of this, he added.

“I’m going to get that evidence. I almost have it,” Lacson said.

Hospital passes for sale

Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, who visited Bilibid on Monday, said he had received information about inmates buying passes from BuCor employees to be able to stay at the hospital in the prison compound.

Go said he asked the BuCor to explain reports that jailed drug lords could go in and out of the hospital even if they were not ill, and then traded drugs while there.

He said he asked for data on how many inmates were staying in the hospital and for how long, and how many of those in the hospital were convicted for involvement in the illegal drug trade.

Go said that by talking to inmates, he learned that the good conduct time allowance law was being used by corrupt officials to extort money from the prisoners and to give them false hopes.

He called on inmates victimized by corrupt BuCor officials to report what they know.

The President will listen to them, he added.

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TAGS: Bureau of Corrections, GCTA for sale, Godfrey Gamboa, Maribel Bansil, National Bilibid Prison, Ramoncito Roque, Veronica Buño, Yolanda Camilon
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