BuCor denies raps on graft, coddling ‘VIPs’
It seems not even congressional hearings and President Aquino’s orders are enough to effect change behind prison walls.
Nearly a year after convicted murderer and former Batangas Governor Jose Antonio Leviste was caught in one of his capers outside prison, road rage killer Rolito Go and other wealthy inmates of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) continue to enjoy special treatment, according to an employee of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
Kabungsuan Makilala, a former assistant head of the bureau’s bids and awards committee, also claimed that corruption, prostitution and other irregularities worsened when Gaudencio Pangilinan took over as BuCor director when the position was vacated by Ernesto Diokno, a known close friend of the President.
A retired Army general, Pangilinan replaced Diokno on July 19, 2011, a few days after the latter quit his post following the discovery of Leviste’s unauthorized trips outside the state penitentiary in Muntinlupa City.
In an exclusive interview with the Inquirer, Makilala accused Pangilinan of implementing infrastructure projects worth over P50 million in the NBP without the required public bidding.
“The government expected [Pangilinan] to bring the much-needed reforms in BuCor, especially in the NBP. But everything just turned for the worst,” Makilala said, adding: “He may have implemented projects to give the NBP a facelift. But the truth is, he violated the government procurement law and benefited from those projects.”
To prove his claims, Makilala furnished the Inquirer purchase orders of building materials for the repair of the NBP grandstand and the construction of a dormitory building in the minimum-security compound.
He said Pangilinan and the latter’s consultants made sure that every delivery of the construction materials was worth below P500,000, which does not require public bidding under “small value procurement” and “shopping,” as stipulated under Republic Act No. 9184, or the Government Procurement Act.
“But if you sum up the values of the delivered and purchased goods, those projects would be worth millions of pesos, which clearly needed public bidding,” he said.
In one of the purchase orders signed by Pangilinan, the BuCor bought P476,000 worth of building materials from Prestigious Electrical and Construction Supply for the construction of a 159-square-meter prison building on Nov. 11, 2011.
It listed “small value procurement” as the mode of acquisition and was charged to “284,” a reference to the BuCor’s general funds.
Money changing hands
Another receipt showed that Pangilinan authorized the payment of over P208,000 for the “rehabilitation, installation of new floor epoxy laminated.”
“BuCor personnel in the supply and audit divisions know about these anomalies. But they are all afraid to speak up,” Makilala said.
He also questioned Pangilinan’s decision to designate the NBP superintendent, Richard Schwarzkopf Jr., as the approving authority for the disbursement of some P3 million for transportation allowances and repairs in the penitentiary.
Makilala, a prison guard 3 formerly assigned to the BuCor legal office, also said Pangilinan and other unscrupulous prison officials had turned a blind eye to Rolito Go’s violation of the NBP’s strict rules on living-out inmates in exchange for a hefty sum.
He said that aside from Go, convicted drug lord Amin Imam Boratong had also been given special treatment, such as being allowed to leave the prison compound without a valid court order or permission from Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
“The VIP prisoners still do what they have been doing because they provide money to some BuCor officials,” he said.
Told that Pangilinan might be unaware of Go’s supposed furloughs, Makilala said: “It’s not possible.
“[Pangilinan] is known to be very strict, and he has several people there. I’m sure he is just tolerating the violations of some inmates.”
He added that Pangilinan was known to be “a good intelligence officer.”
Convicted of killing college student Eldon Maguan over a traffic altercation in 1991, Go has been in prison for more than 18 years.
A few years ago, he was discharged from the NBP maximum-security compound and became a “living-out” inmate at the minimum-security compound.
Go was also allowed to stay in a nipa hut just behind the Ina ng Awa parish, a few meters away from the NBP main gate but still within the prison compound.
His hut is a few steps away from the air-conditioned room where former influential inmates Romeo Jalosjos and Claudio Teehankee Jr. used to stay before they were pardoned by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
A senior BuCor official, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, backed Makilala’s claim that Go had been frequently leaving the NBP compound to visit the office of a lending firm he owned in nearby Soldier’s Hills Village, also in Muntinlupa.
Go usually leaves the NBP at around noon and returns a few hours later. “He’s been doing that since the time of [former BuCor chief] Oscar Calderon,” the source said.
An ABS-CBN crew was able to take video footage of Go in civilian clothes and riding a car to and from his hut and the minimum-security compound. The same car was also seen in front of the lending firm Go supposedly owned.
On Thursday, the Inquirer saw Go talking with three other men at a table outside his private quarters.
He was wearing a white undershirt and blue jogging pants, a clear violation of the NBP rule requiring every living-out inmate to wear a brown prison uniform.
But when interviewed at his office Thursday, Pangilinan laughed off Makilala’s claims.
Pangilinan said he expected the prison guard to make up stories against him when he ordered the latter’s reassignment to the Davao Prison and Penal Farm on January 1.
Pangilinan also said Makilala was just trying to get back at him when the bureau dismantled the canteen he used to operate in front of the main NBP building.
“[As much as possible], we don’t want to put value on [these] allegations,” Pangilinan told the Inquirer and ABS-CBN reporter Henry Omaga Diaz.
“We just remain focused on what we should do. The order of the President is for us not to be distracted by those who don’t want reforms,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Pangilinan then turned the tables on Makilala, claiming the prison guard himself was involved in anomalous bidding during the previous BuCor administration.
But he admitted that he had been receiving a number of complaints, letters, text messages and calls from anonymous persons implicating him and other BuCor officers in alleged anomalies.
“We don’t ignore these. We will not tolerate irregularities. But we should also look at the reasons why [Makilala] was making those accusations,” Pangilinan said. “I’d rather not answer his every accusation. I don’t want to stoop to his level.”
In a separate interview, De Lima said she would immediately order a full-blown investigation if the result of the preliminary probe of the Department of Justice (DoJ) showed that Pangilinan was involved in irregularities.
“It’s very frustrating and disappointing because we want to have a reform-oriented government consistent with the President’s campaign of tuwid na daan (righteous path),” De Lima said.
“We made recommendations and we were assured the reforms are now in place. Yet we now have these reports and allegations about irregularities, which are serious claims. I’m not accusing anyone since those claims are yet to be verified. But if they are true, then that is really disturbing. I wonder why some of the President’s appointees do not share his vision,” she said.
A 1979 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, Pangilinan was among those charged with plunder by former military budget officer George Rabusa.
But a DoJ panel of prosecutors eventually dropped the charge against him and several others when the case was submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman a few months ago.
Pangilinan served as executive assistant of former Armed Forces chief Arturo Enrile.
In his testimony to the Senate, Rabusa said executive assistants were more known as the “bagmen” of military chiefs of staff.
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