September 21, 2019
THE Senate leadership on Thursday vowed to increase the budget of the Department of Justice so it can proceed with the computerization program of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and address massive corruption in the agency.
During the resumption of the Senate inquiry on alleged anomalies at BuCor, which also runs the New Bilibid Prison, the need to install modern surveillance equipment and jammers, as well as the computerization of its data system, cropped up.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the computerization of the data of inmate population is one of his priorities “because they have been it manually all these years.”
Guevarra said he wants to know the exact number of prisoners nationwide, and the number of those already freed and the basis of their release whether through executive clemency, parole, jail term completion, or Good Conduct Time Allowance.
Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd assured Guevarra that funds could be allocated for the proposed modernization of the country’s jail facilities.
“Go full blast in the computerization and [procurement of] all the necessary equipment. So, don’t worry. We’ll be able to fund that,” Sotto said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon told Guevarra to quickly review and submit their recommendation to the Senate.
“I’m sure everybody in the Senate, given what we have heard so far, would just enthusiastically vote to increase your budget to the extent to a capital outlay needed to purchase these equipment. You have a budget hearing on Monday (September 23), you can submit to us a definite proposal on this,” Drilon said.
Drilon assured Guevarra the Senate “can find fiscal space in the budget to accommodate a project of this importance.”
Guevarra has ordered new BuCor chief Gerald Bantag to prioritize the full computerization and acquisition of high-tech equipment.
“As a matter of fact, this is just one of the earliest guidelines or recommendations that I made to the newly designated BuCor chief in the person of Mr. Bantag,” the Justice secretary said.
But Drilon proposed the acquisition must be directly supervised and controlled by Guevarra, given the current circumstances at BuCor.
“Given what we have today if you leave this to BuCor, you don’t know what will happen later,” Drilon said.
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