In Bilibid, corruption thrives and some inmates live ‘like kings’

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 9) — Corruption in the Bureau of Corrections comes in more ways than just the so-called Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) for sale scheme.

For a fee, convicts inside the high-level security premises of the maximum security compound of the New Bilibid Prison, also known as Building 14, get to live “like kings” in their cells, Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said.

Sinabi kasi nila contraband number one ang mobile phone. And yet the PDLs (persons deprived of liberty) especially, even those detained at the maximum security facility openly use their mobile phones,” Lacson said Monday during the Senate probe on the GCTA mess.

[Translation: They said their number one contraband are mobile phones. And yet PDLs, especially, even those detained at the maximum security facility openly use their mobile phones.]

To prove his point, Lacson showed a photo of convicted car theft Raymond Dominguez with his girlfriend posted on Facebook in November 2017. He said a mobile phone was confiscated from Dominguez just last month.

Nanalo na kayo sa korte, na-convict na nga [You’ve won in court, they’ve even been convicted,] and yet they live like kings sa prison facilities... So justice has not been rendered,” Lacson said.

Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption chairman Boy Evangelista said high-end phones can be smuggled in for ₱2 million to ₱2.5 million, while 2G to 3G phones go for about ₱500,000 to ₱700,000.

An inmate seemed to confirm Lacson’s allegations that contraband is allowed inside the NBP as long as prison guards get paid.

Answering questions posed by Senate Blue Ribbon committee chair Richard “Dick” Gordon, Godfrey Gamboa, the common law husband of Yoly Camilon — the first witness to surface on the supposed GCTA for sale scheme — said prison guards accepted bribes amounting from P500 to P1,000 to allow smuggling in of cigarettes, phones and televisions.

He explained that he only knows of what happens in Bilibid’s minimum and medium security compounds as a detainee since being jailed in May 2017 for falsifying private documents.

Gamboa said bribes differ depending on the phone’s model. Cigarettes are also smuggled in and are “like gold,” he said.

He added that food from visitors is allowed to enter the jail if guards agree. If they do not, visitors would have to pay up.

He also said that conjugal visits came at a price before Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa and Nicanor Faeldon became Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chiefs.

Asked if drugs were also smuggled in Bilibid, Gamboa initially replied, “Wala po sa minimum [In the minimum security compound, there is none.]”

Gamboa’s wife, Camilon, has also accused prison officials of taking bribes so they could allow visitors to sneak in contraband for inmates.

However, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Oscar Albayalde said it is impossible that the PNP Special Action Force (SAF) personnel who man the gates of the NBP’s maximum security compound, would allow the entry of contraband.

Ang belief natin is kapag kakampi nila ang gwardiya, doon nakakapasok itong mga gadgets na ito, not through Special Action Force. Kasi ‘yung SAF natin, umiikot 'yan. After a few months, nagro-rotate ‘yan so hindi sila familiar kung sino-sinong tao doon,” Albayalde said.

[Translation: Our belief is that if they are allied with the guards, these gadgets can get in, not through the Special Action Force. Because our SAF, they rotate. After a few months, they get rotated so they are not familiar with the people there.]

New witness

Gamboa, who was summoned by the Senate and is under its custody, said he was moved to testify against prison officials as he has had enough of their alleged corrupt practices.

Siguro ito na ‘yung time na matuldukan na itong ginagawa nila sa BuCor na pangongotong sa mga preso. At kawawa kaming mga preso. Wala na nga kaming kakainin, ultimo kainin pa ng pamilya namin, binibigay pa namin sa kanila,” he said.

[Translation: Maybe this is the time that we put an end to BuCor’s solicitation of bribes from us inmates. We are so pitiful. We don’t have anything to eat, even what our family would eat, we would have to give it to them.]

He said other inmates could not speak because their lives are on the line.

Asked about what would happen to him if he is returned to Bilibid, Gamboa replied, “Patay ako. Alam ko. ‘Pag ibabalik ako, alam ko na ang mangyayari sa akin.

[Translation: I’ll be dead. I know it. If I will be returned, I know what will happen to me.]

Gamboa and Camilon had reiterated their accusations against BuCor officials: That they approached Camilon to offer Gamboa’s early release through the expanded Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) policy in exchange for ₱50,000 paid in three installments.

In the previous Senate hearing, Camilon claimed she paid BuCor personnel ₱50,000 in three installments in February for the release of her husband who is detained at the New Bilibid Prison.

She said a certain Senior Inspector Mabel Bansil claimed ₱40,000 in two of the installments, with the first ₱10,000 being paid to Ramoncito "Chito" Roque, identified as the Documents Processing Section chief of the bureau.

Bansil denied receiving any money from Camilon. Roque, on the other hand, said he received ₱10,000, but was only able to return it to Camilon after a few days as he had a lot of things on his mind. However, Camilon said Roque has not returned the money.

Camilon said they agreed her husband would be released in March 2019. The deal, however, did not push through, as she was referred to another BuCor official, Ruperto Traya. Traya was shot dead by unknown assailants on August 27 in Muntinlupa.

Aside from Traya, Camilon also admitted to dealing with another BuCor official named Veronica Buno.

She said the date of her husband's release was pushed back to June and then to October.

Speaking to reporters after Monday’s hearing, Gordon said the BuCor officials involved could face graft charges.

“When you do something that hurts other people because you are giving privilege, that's part of the Anti-Graft law,” he said.

Lacson said the corruption problem in BuCor is systemic and needs to be addressed immediately.

CNN Philippines’ Lara Tan, Joyce Ilas and Melissa Luz Lopez contributed to this report.