"We must focus on the bigger issues."
We should all look at the multi-fold scandals at the Bureau of Corrections from the proper perspective.
We should not allow ourselves to get distracted by collateral issues.
First, let’s remember what brought out all these rackets at the BuCor. It was the news item that said some 2,000 convicts were ready to be released due to the Good Conduct Time Allowance Law. This law was enacted in 2013 and implemented the following year.
When the name of former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez surfaced as one of the potential beneficiaries of the law, hell broke loose. People were outraged because we remembered that case of the rape of UP Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta. She was killed, as was her friend, Allan Gomez.
Even President Duterte was outraged. He told BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon not to go ahead with the release.
Faeldon was soon sacked, but the matter became confusing because the President continued to say Faeldon was honest and upright.
The Senate Blue Ribbon committee started investigating the BuCor to determine responsibility and accountability in aid of legislation. The senators later on uncovered yet more rackets happening under the nose of Faeldon. In fact, these dated back to the time of another former BuCor head, now Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.
This made the President order the recall of the 1,914 convicts guilty of heinous crimes. To date, just over 600 have surrendered.
In the meantime, another scandal was exposed: Hospital rest for sale.
All these scandals bring us back to the bigger issue: Who really is responsible and accountable? Who made it possible that even those found guilty of heinous crimes can benefit from the GCTA Law?
Since the bureau is directly under the Department of Justice, what should Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra do?
First of all, Faeldon and all other officials who had anything to do with the release of the 1,914 convicts should be charged and made to answer.
Prison doctors who sell hospital-rest passes to rich convicts should also be charged. The same with the so-called Drug Queen at the Correctional Institute for Women, responsible for the proliferation of illegal drugs at the women’s facility.
There should be a thorough review of the prison system. With the current system, corruption is inevitable.
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I also believe the relocation of the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa is long overdue. Former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre aborted this plan for reasons known only to him. The National Bilibid Prison has become heavily congested and has become a breeding ground for all sorts of illegal activities.
The NBP was built only for 2,400 inmates. Actual count has swelled to 24,000.
I recall plans during the Arroyo and BS Aquino administrations to relocate the NBP to Camp Laur, Nueva Ecija. Three pre-qualified conglomerates—San Miguel, DM Consunji and Megawide—vied to build the P5-billion facility. The idea was to separate those guilty of heinous crimes from ordinary convicts. Convicted drug lords will also be separated to prevent them from carrying out their trade from behind bars.
Somehow, Guevarra’s immediate predecessor aborted the plan. Perhaps Secretary Guevarra should also initiate talks for the relocation of the NBP.
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The nightmarish traffic in Edsa has bred all sorts of ridiculous suggestions. Now a lawmaker wants to ban all private vehicles from Edsa during rush hour.
I have been using Edsa from the time it was still called Highway 54. Back then, driving was a breeze. Now it is a big parking lot.
The problem is there because of the increasing number of vehicles without corresponding improvements in infrastructure. We need more thoroughfares and skyways. Until then, we just have to bear with the horrible Edsa traffic.