‘Very Important Prisoners’
MANILA, Philippines—In his prime, construction magnate Rolito Go built houses for the wealthy and powerful.
Today, he lives in a cottage made of bamboo and anahaw that can be lifted off the concrete floor and moved elsewhere if necessary. But he’s better off than the 32,000 inmates at the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa City.
Go, who was convicted of shooting dead college student Eldon Maguan in a fit of road rage in 1991, is a “living out” inmate, like former Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste and more than 100 other elderly, sickly inmates at the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP).
“It was an accident,” Go said of the road incident that led him to shoot the 25-year-old Maguan in San Juan City.
In an interview yesterday with Radyo Inquirer, Go said he was free to leave the NBP compound “for medical reasons.” He was granted the “living out” privilege last year when he was diagnosed with colon cancer.
“My schedule to go out of the NBP compound depends on my medication and chemotherapy schedule… Sometimes I go out six times a month,” he said.
Issued by DoJ
Go said it was the Department of Justice that granted his permit. But he said the passes for his trips outside the NBP were being issued by its superintendent.
“Last year, I went out almost every day for my radiation and chemotherapy sessions,” he said.
He made it clear that he did not go anywhere else except the hospital: “I am too weak to go elsewhere after every session.”
Go’s privileges are now being questioned in view of the discovery that Leviste had been making unauthorized trips outside the NBP.
But Go refused to comment on Leviste’s case beyond saying: “Some reports are exaggerated. The truth is security here is very strict.”
He said he was always accompanied by two escorts when going to the hospital. He said he had to apply for a pass days ahead of his appointment with his doctor.
And as a “living out” prisoner, he can only move around the NBP “reservation area,” he said.
Go’s cottage is behind the Inang Awa Parish Church, which is a stone’s throw away from the high-walled main building of the NBP.
Near his cottage is a small concrete house that used to be owned by former lawmaker Romeo Jalosjos, who was convicted of raping a child in 1996. He was released in 2009 on humanitarian grounds when he turned 70.
There is also another cottage that was used by Claudio Teehankee Jr., a son and namesake of the former chief justice. He was convicted of shooting dead Maureen Hultman in 1995 and was released in 2008 after his sentence was commuted by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Go said he qualified for a “living out” arrangement because he had served nearly 20 years in jail.
But Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Go’s pass to leave the NBP compound should have expired by now. She said the DoJ did not issue “indefinite passes.”
“If at all there is a pass [for Go], that’s null and void,” she told reporters
De Lima also said inmates were given passes on “a case by case basis.” She recalled having issued a 3-hour pass to an inmate whose father had died.
In a separate interview, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III said Go could no longer use the pass given to him by the DoJ.
Baraan said he remembered seeing an application for a pass from Go late last year or early this year, “but he cannot use that now because it’s been a while.” With a report from Nikko Dizon
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