Report on tipoff irks BuCor chief
MANILA, Philippines–Give us the names and we will investigate.
This was the response of Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director Franklin Bucayu to the National Bureau of Investigation official who claimed some prison guards had helped hide the quarters of so-called Very Important Prisoners (VIPs) and misled NBI agents who swooped down on the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) on Monday.
“It’s so that we know who’s who and so that the entire organization will not be dragged down,” a seemingly angry Bucayu said over the phone on Thursday.
As for a supposed leak of the information about the raid that enabled inmates to prepare beforehand, Bucayu, who admitted he had prior knowledge of the operation, said he had been “very quiet” about what he knew from the start.
The BuCor official did not directly say that details about the raid could have been known by some inmates from other sources, but he volunteered the information that the raid was the product of “interagency work.”
“So, the NBI knew, the (Philippine National Police) knew,” he said, noting that some NBP personnel whom he did not identify but whom he said were “trusted” also had prior knowledge of the operation.
He said reports about the NBP were “on the air” for three weeks “already,” making it possible for some inmates to deduce that a raid was impending.
“It’s there on TV, radio. (The inmates) have been named there. These (inmates) are not stupid,” Bucayu said.
No prior knowledge
When sought for comment, Supt. Roberto Rabo, NBP officer in charge, said he found out about the raid only on the day itself.
He said he did not know who had prior knowledge of the operation, but that he was certain the “more than 20 NBP guards” who were randomly assigned to guide each raiding team also found out about the raid on Monday.
“How could they have tipped off anyone when they found out about (the operation) hours before, when they were assembled for a meeting in Bicutan?” he asked over the phone.
He said the allegations about the guards tipping off inmates were even more unlikely, considering what he said was the fact that right after the meeting, their cell phones were temporarily taken away from them so that they would not be able to communicate with anyone.
For Rabo, there could be another explanation for the so-called absence of incriminating evidence in the “kubol” (quarters) of some inmates: That there really wasn’t any incriminating evidence at all.
“It doesn’t mean that if you’re on the (NBI) list (of kubol to be raided), you have something (to hide) there already,” Rabo said.
In a separate interview, Rabo said he was saddened by public calls that he resign or be removed from his post following the discovery during the raid of the luxurious lifestyle of several high-profile inmates in the national penitentiary.
“I am sad because, like in a chest, a chest of problems, here, we are already cleaning that. So while we were cleaning, since we were the ones in our posts, ours is the mistake… But the problem was already there,” Rabo, who assumed his post only in June, said.
He said, in fact, the “operations” in the maximum security compound were “continuous,” such that around 70 airconditioning sets, an electric bike and a golf cart have already been removed.
“The area is really big. You can’t really get everything in an hourly basis. The others are hidden… (But) we got those (I said) already,” he said.
He said that since he assumed his post, he had approved “not much equipment” for entry into the prison.
He said those he approved were “really needed” there.
He cited as an example a computer set he approved for entry as requested by a deacon of the Iglesia Ni Cristo chapel that is located inside the maximum security compound.
“It was used for their office. So they could submit their report to Central. There isn’t any typewriter today… so what was needed was a computer.
[That computer was for] the chapel, the office there. It was not approved for the individual [use of the inmate], but for common [use],” he said.
According to a provision in the BuCor Operating Manual, the superintendent “may allow the inmate to bring in electrical equipment, like television sets, radio cassettes, video players, electric fans and similar items provided the same is for common use by the inmates.”
Rabo said he did not approve the entry of a jacuzzi, nor the holding of a concert in the prison grounds.
“I already heard about that (the holding of the concert) I wasn’t here yet,” he said, noting he assumed his post on June 6.
The concert of Herbert Colangco was held in April.
“Anytime we can be relieved. We have no problem with that… We were the ones here when (the lifestyle was discovered). It appears we are the ones in the wrong,” he said.
He said on Thursday afternoon that he had not received the show-cause order Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said would be issued to him.
If he received it, he said he would just explain his side.
“I have nothing to hide.”
A former NBP inmate dismissed calls from some sectors for the privatization of the national penitentiary.
In an interview over radio dzIQ on Thursday, former Quezon City Rep. Vincent Crisologo said there was, after all, no company in the country with “experience” in jail management.
He noted that the situation in the country was unlike that in America, where he said there “really” was “training” and therefore could privatize prison facilities.
He said the case of the NBP was a “question of good management.”
“They should just choose a person who manages hands-on… Once [the guards] see you are strict, they will follow. That depends on the leaders. That’s what I observed. If the director is strict, the guards will really follow,” he said.
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