September 13, 2019
FORMER Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) deputy chief Rafael Ragos on Thursday revealed several “money-making” schemes at the agency and the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), including bringing in female entertainers for high-profile inmates for a fee.
Ragos was the third witness presented when the Senate’s Blue Ribbon Committee resumed its investigation of the alleged misapplication of the Good Conduct Time Allowance Law in releasing inmates, including heinous crime convicts.
Three new witnesses surfaced during the hearing to testify on what they know about irregularities at the BuCor and NBP, including the so-called hospital pass for sale.
They were former National Bureau of Investigation agent Jovencio Ablen Jr., inmate Jose Galario Jr. and his daughter Greizl Fernandez.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he received reports that some high-profile inmates pay as much as P2 million to be allowed longer confinement at the NBP hospital.
Fernandez claimed that she heard one of the inmates paid at least P150,000 to be confined at the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City.
“Sa loob ng maximum [security compound], maraming unusual transactions regarding money-making (Inside the maximum, there are unusual transactions regarding money-making),” said Ragos, who served as BuCor officer in charge during former president Benigno Aquino 3rd’s administration.
He said unscrupulous prison guards allow female dancers inside NBP to “entertain” high-profile inmates for P30,000 a night.
“For example, ‘yung ‘tilapia’ nakakapagpasok sila diyan. Babae. Para sa mga high-profile, magpapasok ng babae. Nag e-enjoy sila sa mga babae (For example, women are able to go inside [the NBP]. For high-profile inmates, [entertainers] will be brought inside. They enjoy women),” Ragos said.
Tilapia is jail’s euphemism for women.
Ragos reiterated his accusation that detained Sen. Leila de Lima was linked to illegal drug dealing at the NBP.
Meanwhile, the Senate cited in contempt Fredric Anthony Santos chief of the legal division; Ramoncito Roque, head of the documents division; and Dr. Ursicio Cenas, NBP doctor, for being
evasive in answering the senators’ queries on their alleged involvement in some anomalies at the BuCor.
Lacson bared at least seven cases of money-making schemes inside the NBP, both petty and large-scale.
“Maraming issues. Pagpasok ng contraband. May ‘special request.’ Pagpasok ng tilapia. Pagpasok ng extended period ng visitation, may bayad (There are so many issues. The entry of contraband.
Special requests. The entry of women entertainers. Extending the period of visitation for a fee),” Lacson said.
Santos confirmed there was corruption in the NBP, with the payoffs depending on the inmate’s “level.”
Lacson said the committee invited Ragos and Ablen to give the Senate panel a clearer picture of corruption at BuCor.
“The money-making scheme has been there since time immemorial,” he said.
“[This is] with the end in view to resolve these issues and come up with legislation to [stop] these malpractices,” he added.
Lacson asked BuCor Officer in Charge Melvin Ramon Buenafe if the situation at BuCor was still reversible.
“I asked that question because corruption over time, it has become endemic.”
“It seems [inmates with power and wealth] have good command and control over their fellow inmates, even BuCor employees. BuCor officials, even lowly guard employees became afraid and have become hostage. You have given them so much power and wealth. Can we still reverse the situation?” he asked.
Lacson said he received information that some NBP inmates were being hired as assassins.
“Inmates can go out of jail to commit a crime, kill somebody, gun-for-hire style, then return in the morning [to jail]. We heard stories these are inmates committing crimes while incarcerated,” he added.
Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go grilled Galario on the alleged “hospital pass for sale” scheme.
Go quizzed Galario on the process that inmates go through when requesting for hospital confinement.
Galerio said the duty physician recommends and approves the confinement of sick inmates.
“Sa Building 14, drug lords at malaki ang sentensya, ‘yung pag-recommend at approve, duty physician will admit them for several months. ‘Yung drug lords (In Building 14, drug lords with big sentences, it’s the duty physician who approves and admits them for several months), even though their sickness can be discharged in one week. Because of money, they can be confined for as long as seven months, eight months,” Galario said.
He added that he had seen inmates using cellphones inside the NBP Hospital.
Go promised Galario protection as long as he tells the truth about the alleged corruption and abuse of power in the NBP Hospital.
The senator reiterated his assurance to the public that heads would roll and those responsible for the anomalies would be held accountable.
“I am convinced that there is either corruption or negligence in the way our correctional facilities are being managed. Let me assure the public, heads will roll. Mananagot ang dapat managot (The guilty has to answer [for their acts],” Go said.
WITH JAVIER JOE ISMAEL
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