BuCor: No VIP treatment for anti-De Lima inmates
MANILA — “It’s not really lavish,” the Bureau of Corrections has declared after probing the accommodations for the high-profile inmates who implicated opposition Senator Leila de Lima in the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.
There were only one communal cell phone and 10 airconditioning units in the detention facility at the Armed Forces of the Philippines custodial center, BuCor Director-General Benjamin delos Santos told the House of Representatives’ justice subcommittee on correctional reforms on Wednesday.
This was contrary to the statement of a leaked confidential memorandum by BuCor Legal Office Chief Alvin Herrera Lim dated Dec. 9.
During the hearing, Delos Santos acknowledged the document as “genuine,” but said investigators could not pinpoint which among 37 employees that handled the document was the source of the leak.
BuCor inspection showed that “no individual cellphones were found in the possession of the inmates.”
Instead, the 11 New Bilibid Prison inmates now residing at the military jail have access to one cellphone at the common reception area as “part of entertainment or relaxation on a scheduled basis.”
The inmates could use the phone to talk to their lawyers or call their family for emergency purposes in case of sickness, Delos Santos said. These calls and text messages are logged by the personnel at the reception area.
Since subcommittee chair Misamis Occidental 2nd Dist. Rep. Henry Oaminal aired concern specifically about the dealings of convicted robber Herbert Colanggo, Delos Santos said that the communal phone was
submitted for forensic examination.
While 10 air conditioners were found, the BuCor chief said these were dismantled at Aguirre’s orders, even as one diabetic inmate required better ventilation.
Aguirre himself was absent during the hearing due to a prior commitment.
In his stead, Justice Undersecretary Reynante Orceo said: “I don’t recall any instruction from the Secretary to allow the use of any gadgets as claimed by Attorney. Lim.” He added that Lim has not explained his side regarding the memorandum.
Before Delos Santos disclosed the investigation results 50 minutes into the hearing, Siquijor Rep. Ramon Rocamora complained that the session would have been useless without the proper authorities to press for confirmation.
Philippine National Police Director-General Ronald Dela Rosa was also absent from the hearing. The PNP instead sent Senior Supt. Fausto Manzanilla, executive officer of the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management, a unit without authority over the Special Action Forces.
It is the SAF that oversees the “innermost ring” of security at the custodial center, which is the facility itself, according to BuCor’s Delos Santos.
But, Manzanilla could only relay the SAF’s statement that “the allegation of VIP treatment is not true,” explaining that the police body was not privy to the internal affairs at the military jail.
This led Oaminal to complain that the PNP’s response to the subcommittee’s invitation was “not the most appropriate and proper response.”
But, with the panel being informed of the BuCor’s probe results, Oaminal said they would only need to await the SAF’s own written report before deciding if further hearings needed to be held. SFM
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