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

Marje Pelayo   •   September 28, 2019   •   442

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)

Muntinlupa Police creates task group to investigate Santos slay case

Maris Federez   •   February 20, 2020

MUNTINLUPA CITY, Philippines — The Muntinlupa City Police has created a special investigation task group to focus on the killing of suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) legal officer Atty. Frederick Anthony Santos.

The police said neither the closed-circuit television camera (CCTV) installed in the vicinity of the crime scene nor the dashcam of Santos’ vehicle was able to capture the shooting incident that took the life of the official.

Muntinlupa City Police chief PCol. Hermogenes Duque Cabe, however, said they can still check on all the CCTV in the possible route that the suspects took in fleeing the crime scene.
 
“Ongoing ang investigation pa rin hanggang ngayon,” Cabe said.

Based on the autopsy, Santos sustained two gunshots in the head, one on his neck, and three on his left arm.

Witnesses said the suspects left the crime scene on a motorcycle.

The Department of Justice, on the other hand, has earlier ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct its own investigation on the killing of the suspended BuCor official.

The DOJ doesn’t discount the possibility that the shooting is connected with the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) controversy at the agency.

Santos was supposed to return to work on March 12 after the six-month suspension meted out on him by the Office of the Ombudsman due to anomalous implementation of the GCTA.

Meanwhile, Senator Ronald dela Rosa believes that the drug lords in the New Bilibid Prisons are behind the killing of Atty. Santos.

“’yung nagpapatay dyan sa mga tao natin sa BuCor, yan din yung mga nakakulong na drug lord dyan na kumbaga hindi nasunod yung kanilang kagustuhan. Marami pa yang pera at galamay sa labas na pwede kang ipapatay. Tinatakot nga ang mga judge, mga piskal,” dela Rosa said. —(from the report of Correspondent Sherwin Culubong) /mbmf

DOJ orders NBI to probe slay of suspended BuCor exec

Robie de Guzman   •   February 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the killing of Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) legal division chief Atty. Frederic Anthony Santos.

In a directive issued on Wednesday, February 19, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra ordered and granted authority to NBI director Dante Gierran to conduct an investigation and case build-up against those behind the murder.

Santos was shot dead on Wednesday afternoon by unidentified gunmen while waiting to pick up his child in front of a school in Muntinlupa City, just a few meters away from the gate of the New Bilibid Prison.

He died instantly after sustaining gunshot wounds to head, neck and left arm based on an autopsy conducted by authorities.

Guevarra also ordered the NBI to file appropriate charges against persons found responsible for the crime if evidence warrants.

He also directed Gierran to submit to his office reports on the progress of the subject investigation and case build-up within 30 days.

In a separate statement, the DOJ chief said that Santos’ fatal shooting is still under investigation but is “very likely” connected to the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) issue.

Santos was suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman last September 2019 in relation to the alleged misapplication of the GCTA law and other time credits to prisoners.

He was supposed to return to work in March after serving six months of suspension.

Santos was among the resource persons in a Senate Investigation into the GCTA mess.

Irregularities in the GCTA law application grabbed headlines following reports on the possible early release of former mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was convicted for the rape and murder of Eileen Sarmenta and her companion, Allan Sanchez in 1993 after his sentence of 7-term Reclusion Perpetua was shortened.

The issue led to the revelations of the release of some heinous crime convicts and the anomalies in the BuCor. It also led to the dismissal of Nicanor Faeldon as BuCor chief, and President Duterte to set a deadline for the surrender of nearly 2,000 GCTA-freed convicts or be hunted down by police.

Manhunt launched vs. assailants of BuCor top lawyer in GCTA controversy

Marje Pelayo   •   February 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Authorities are now investigating the motive behind the killing of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Legal Service Department chief, Atty. Fredric Anthony Santos on Wednesday (February 19).

Santos was shot by two still unidentified gunmen in front of his daughter’s school near the New Bilibid Prison as he was supposed to pick her up.

Witnesses said the suspects immediately left the crime scene onboard a motorcycle after the incident.

Santos became controversial after appearing in a Senate inquiry as a witness in the alleged ‘freedom for sale’ inside the BuCor in connection with the inmates’ Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA).

The BuCor official sustained gunshot wounds in the head and died on the spot, according to the responding rescue team from Muntinlupa City.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday (February 20) ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct an investigation on the killing of Santos.

The SOJ also ordered a case build-up and eventually charge those who are behind the murder.

Secretary Guevarra believes that the killing of Santos is likely linked to his role in the GCTA investigation.

National Capital Region Police Office (NCPO) Chief PDG Debold Sinas, meanwhile, assured the safety of Santos’ family following his death.

“We have coordinated with BuCor for the security of the Family na nakatira doon sa BuCor Compound,” he said.

Santos was suspended in September last year by the Office of the Ombudsman for alleged grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service for allegedly allowing the questionable release of prison convicts.

Following Santos‘ death, Senate President Vicente Sotto III revealed that he was informed that the BuCor official promised Senator Panfilo Lacson that he (Santos) will divulge everything he knew about the irregularities in the granting of GCTA privileges inside the New Bilibid Prison. – MNP (with details from Sherwin Culubong)

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