How the Senate shifted its inquiry from ‘GCTA for sale’ to ‘Agaw Bato scheme’

Marje Pelayo   •   September 28, 2019   •   1009

Senate President Vicente Tito Sotto III, Sen. Richard Gordon, and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon listen to the latest revelations during the continuation of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law hearing in the Senate. (Courtesy: PRIB / Joseph Vidal)

MANILA, Philippines – Many are wondering how the issue of the so-called ‘Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) for sale’ scheme is connected to the controversy of drug recycling or the so-called ‘Agaw Bato scheme’ inside the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

It all started when the supposed release of former Calauan, Laguna mayor, Antonio Sanchez — a convicted murderer and rapist—made headlines in August this year.

The Senate immediately called for an investigation and no less than then BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon confirmed that Sanchez didn’t qualify for the privilege under GCTA.

Also, the family of Sanchez’ victim, appealed to the Senate not to allow the release of the former mayor.

The next day, Sanchez’ family appeared at the Senate inquiry and revealed that ‘somebody’ informed them through a phone call about Sanchez’ impending release.

From then on, questions about the alleged ‘GCTA for sale’ have perplexed lawmakers and no less than President Rodrigo Duterte himself ordered the dismissal of Faeldon as chief of the BuCor.

On September 3, Yolanda Camilon, wife of one of the inmates inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) appeared before the Senate inquiry.

Camilon tagged BuCor employees Veronica Buño, Mabel Bansil and Ramonsito Roque, the chief of the BuCor’s Document Section who Camilon claimed as the one who asked P50,000 in exchange for the release of her husband.

The day after, Camilon’s detained partner Godfrey Gamboa appeared before the Senate to testify that indeed, ‘GCTA for sale’ exists inside the NBP.

On the fifth day of the inquiry, another money-making scheme inside the BuCor was revealed — the ‘hospital pass for sale.’

Detained former Valencia City Mayor Jose Galario Jr. testified that such scheme exists inside the agency.

Meanwhile, former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) official Rafael Ragos and Jovencio Alben Jr. divulged during the inquiry that there were actually seven money-making schemes inside the BuCor which included the alleged drug money which detained Senator Leila de Lima received from drug inmates.

On the sixth day of the inquiry came former PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, who revealed the so-called ‘agaw bato’ scheme or the practice of drug recycling inside the national penitentiary.

Magalong confirmed that until today, several high-ranking police officers are still involved in recycling illegal drugs after they confiscate them from drug suspects.

The former official asked the Senate for an executive order to allow him to reveal the names of the police officials involved in the controversy.

The Senate approved the motion filed by Senator Ronald dela Rosa and authorized the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee and Justice Committee to reveal what transpired in the September 19 executive session.

The names were immediately sent to President Rodrigo Duterte.

No less than PNP Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde was dragged into the controversy and his dismissal as Pampanga Regional Police Director in 2014 became an issue because it involved cops under his jurisdiction.

Albayalde was asked to appear at the Senate hearing.

From GCTA, the Senate inquiry has now shifted to drug recycling and the so-called “ninja cops”.

Despite the shift, the senators believe these issues are interconnected.

Because of the GCTA mess, the Senate immediately filed a proposed measure that would exempt convicts of heinous crimes from the benefits of GCTA.

Faeldon may have been dismissed, but the Senate said he is not yet off the hook.

“Ang tingin ko sa kanya is more on negligent, incompetent,” said Blue Ribbon Committee chair Senator Richard Gordon.

Senator Vicente Sotti III said it was possible that the illegal drugs confiscated in the “agaw-bato” incident in 2014 were likely sold to the drug lords inside the NBP.

“Baka isipin kasi ng iba ano ang koneksyon nito sa hearing namin, (People may be wondering what is the connection of [agaw-bato] to the hearing)” Sotto said.

“Malaking bulto noong na recycle na nahuli ay ang mga drug lord sa NBP ang nag transact. kaya konektado sa NBP iyon, (The bulk of recycled drugs confiscated [in 2014] were transacted by drug lords in the NBP. So that connects it to the NBP),” Sotto said.

The senators said it is time that these issues were raised in the Senate inquiry so that the lawmakers could think of measures to eliminate such corrupt practices and prevent them from worsening.

“Iyang sinasabi natin na nag-shift dito, inevitable dahil nakadikit ang drugs doon sa loob ng jail, (The shift is inevitable because illegal drugs are linked to those inside the jail),” Gordon explained.

“May puputok at puputok dyan, (Something will definitely come out and) we’re getting additional information from new sources,” he added.

The Senate is expected to issue a comprehensive committee report on the matter which include recommendations as to who should be charged in relation to the GCTA and the Agaw Bato scheme. – MNP (with details Grace Casin)

BuCor warns public vs scammers posing as bureau officials

Robie de Guzman   •   April 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) on Friday warned the public against unscrupulous individuals who are posing as bureau senior officials to extort money from their victims.

The BuCor issued the warning after receiving information about persons who have communicated with its partners or suppliers seeking solicitation for future events.

“We would like to inform the public that BuCor has not authorized any individual to conduct such activity especially using the name of the BuCor officials,” the bureau said in a statement.

“Moreover, there are no personnel allowed to solicit favors and goods on behalf of BuCor,” it added.

The agency advised the public to immediately report such transactions to BuCor contact numbers 8478-3597, 0918 600 1081 (Smart), and 0917 819 2803 (Globe). The public may also send a message via this email address.

High-profile inmate Raymond Dominguez found dead in Bilibid cell – BuCor

Robie de Guzman   •   February 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Convicted carjacker Raymond Dominguez was found lifeless inside his cell at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) confirmed Friday.

BuCor Spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag said Dominguez was found dead by his fellow inmates inside his cell at the NBP maximum security compound at past 6 a.m.

Chaclag said it appears that there was no sign of foul play in Dominguez’s demise but they will wait for the medico-legal report on the cause of death.

“Natagpuan siyang patay sa kaniyang bed so it appears that he died of natural causes pero pinaiimbestigahan pa natin. Wala namang foul play,” he said.

Dominguez had a history of diabetes, hypertension, and asthma, according to Chaclag.

Last year, BuCor denied rumors that Dominguez died of COVID-19 although it confirmed that the inmate had contracted the viral respiratory disease.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has asked the BuCor to submit a report on the inmate’s death.

Dominguez was brought to the NBP in April 2012 after he was convicted of carjacking.

He was said to be a part of the notorious carjack ring responsible for the string of carjacking incidents that made headlines in 2011.

Dominguez’s gang was also linked to other high-profile crimes, including the murder of car dealer Venson Evangelista. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Mac Cordova)

Three dead, 64 hurt in latest New Bilibid Prison riot – BuCor

Robie de Guzman   •   November 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Three persons were killed and 64 others were injured in the latest riot that erupted within the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) maximum security compound, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) said Monday.

The BuCor said the three persons deprived of liberty (PDL) were declared dead on arrival at the NBP Hospital while six of the 64 wounded persons were referred to the Ospital ng Muntinlupa for medical attention.

The bureau earlier reported that a “free for all scuffle” transpired inside the Bilibid compound at 8:39 a.m.

Members of the Corrections bureau, Philippine National Police’s Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), Special Action Force (SAF), and the Bureau of Fire Protection have been deployed to contain the situation.

The BuCor said some members of the operating team sustained minor injuries while suppressing the commotion.

Initial investigation showed that the incident was between Sigue-Sigue Sputnik and Sigue-Sigue Commando gangs.

No further details were provided as of this writing.

The riot was contained around 10 a.m., the BuCor said, adding that its personnel are on the process of clearing the area.

The bureau assured that the situation is now under control and that the NBP is back to normal operations.

The incident occurred exactly one month after a riot erupted inside the NBP maximum security compound that left nine inmates dead and several others injured.

The Department of Justice said it has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the incident or expand its probe on the previous riot.


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