‘Not really lavish,’ BuCor chief says of drug convicts’ perks
The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) said on Wednesday its investigation of the alleged special treatment for New Bilibid Prison (NBP) inmates who implicated Sen. Leila de Lima in the illegal drug trade found that their accommodations were “not really lavish” as she had claimed.
There was only one communal cell phone and 10 air-conditioners in the detention facility of the Armed Forces of the Philippines custodial center, BuCor Director General Benjamin de los Santos told a hearing of the House of Representatives’ justice subcommittee on correctional reforms.
De Lima based her allegations on a leaked confidential memorandum by BuCor Legal Office Chief Alvin Herrera Lim dated Dec. 9.
De los Santos said the document was “genuine,” but investigators could not pinpoint the source of the leak among the 37 employees who handled it.
A BuCor inspection showed that “no individual cell phones were found in the possession of the inmates,” he said.
Instead, the 11 NBP inmates being held in the military jail had access to just one cell phone at the common reception area “on a scheduled basis,” De los Santos said.
The inmates were allowed to use the cell phone to contact their lawyers or families during emergencies such as an illness. These calls and text messages were logged by the reception personnel, De los Santos said.
After subcommittee chair Misamis Occidental Second District Rep. Henry Oaminal aired concerns specifically about alleged dealings by convicted robber Herbert Colanggo, De los Santos said the communal phone had undergone forensic examination. He did not say what the results of the examination were.
The BuCor chief said all the air-conditioners were ordered removed by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II despite better ventilation purportedly needed by one diabetic inmate.
Aguirre was absent from the hearing due to a prior commitment.
Justice Undersecretary Reynante Orceo, who took his place, said he could not recall any instruction from Aguirre to allow the inmates to use any gadget as Lim had claimed. Orceo said Lim had yet to explain his side regarding the memorandum.
Siquijor Rep. Ramon Rocamora earlier complained that the hearing would be useless without the presence of the proper authorities.
Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa was also absent. The PNP chief sent Senior Supt. Fausto Manzanilla, executive officer of the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management, to take his place.
The directorate, however, does not exercise authority over the PNP Special Action Force (SAF), which oversees the “innermost ring” of security of the custodial center, De los Santos said.
Manzanilla relayed SAF’s statement that “the allegation of VIP treatment is not true,” saying the police unit was not privy to the internal affairs of the military jail.
Oaminal said the subcommittee would await the SAF’s written report before deciding whether to hold further hearings.
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