No solid evidence yet to charge BuCor officials in GCTA controversy — Lacson

Marje Pelayo   •   September 18, 2019   •   246

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate of the Philippines has not found any strong evidence yet linking officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to the alleged anomalous implementation of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law.

Senator Panfilo Lacson believes they still need more proof aside from the testimonials of the witnesses that appeared at the Senate inquiry in order for the Senate to recommend the filing of charges against the involved BuCor officials.

“Not only Director General Faeldon pero ang ibang dapat mahagip, sinoman ang i-recommend for criminal liability (Not only Director General Faeldon but everyone else that should be recommended for criminal liability),” Lacson said.

“We need solid evidence to even consider recommending filing criminal charges against them,” he added.

Lacson said there was supposedly a group of alleged officials of the agency who expressed their intention to speak up of what they know about the controversial implementation of the GCTA Law.

After some time, however, the said officials changed their minds and withdrew.

“I hope they will have a change of mind, change of heart and finally decide to tell all during the next hearing,” Senator Lacson said.

During the continuation of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Thursday, the Senate invited to attend several personalities including former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong who formerly served as Chief of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

Several senators already expressed agreement in giving chance to detained Senator Leila de Lima to defend herself at the Senate hearing after her name was again dragged into the controversy for allegedly receiving money from drug lords inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

“Yes, she should be given an opportunity,” expressed Senator Franklin Drilon.

Meanwhile, three BuCor officials remained locked up inside the Senate after they were charged in contempt for ling before the Senate Committee. – MNP (with details from Grace Casin)

Villanueva pushes for grassroots approach to develop Filipino athletes

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 15, 2019

Senator Joel Villanueva

Senator Joel Villanueva said there is a need for a grassroots approach in order to develop Filipino athletes.

In a statement, the senator said the lack of organization at the grassroots level prevents our national sports associations from getting the athletes who can be trained to compete in the long term.

“Talent is scattered everywhere in our 7,000 islands, and it is up to us in government to be able to find these people and cultivate their skills so they can carry on with our quest to deliver the country’s first Olympic gold in over 90 years since we first competed in the Games,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva made the statement after the recent wins of gymnast Carlos Yulo and boxer Nesthy Petecio over the weekend.

READ: PSC to provide cash incentives to athletes Yulo, Petecio, Marcial et al

Meanwhile, Villanueva and other senators continue to push for the proposed bill that will create the Philippine High School for Sports. It is an institution that will raise the quality of our young athletes which will make them competitive in the world stage.

“We will see to it that the proposed measure will live up to the dreams of our young athletes of having a specialized school that trains our future champions,” according to Villanueva.—AAC

IED rocks Bilibid’s compound for rebel detainees

Marje Pelayo   •   October 11, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – While clearing operations continued inside the maximum compound of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), an explosion rattled Quadrant 4 around 10:00 AM on Friday (October 11).

The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) immediately deployed K-9 units and a team of experts from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) to the site.

The authorities’ initial investigation discovered that the blast was caused by an improvised explosive device (IED).

Also, two hand grenades and two blasting caps were discovered inside one of the kiosks.

“May sumabog doon, sir. Noong sumabog nag-alisan na kami. Muntikan na kami. Nandoon kami sa isang kanto (Something exploded. When the bomb blasted, we dispersed. We were that close. We were there at the street corner),” one inmate recalled.

“Pagsabog, bigla nang pinaalis (kami). Tinawag namin mga SWAT. (Sinabi) namin sa kanila na may sumabog (When the explosion happened, we were dispersed. Then we called the SWAT and told them about the explosion),” he added.

Authorities also noted that most of the inmates inside Quadrant 4 were members of different rebel groups.

According to the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Chief Gerald Bantag, the rebels were possibly training their co-detainees on how to manufacture explosives.

“Siguro gusto tayong takutin kasi may mga bali-balita. May intelligence report na itong mga extremists na ito ay nagtuturo kung paano gumawa ng bomba (Perhaps, they just want to intimidate us because there was an intelligence report about extremists who are conducting training on how to make a bomb),” Bantag explained.

Bantag assured that they are ready for any circumstance should there be similar incidents in the future.

“Tinanggap ko itong posisyon na ito at na-program ko na ang sarili ko, (I accepted this position and already programed myself in this,” Bantag said.

“Patay kung patay (I am willing to die if that’s what it takes),” he added.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has ordered an investigation on the incident.

He ordered Bantag to file a written report and launch the investigation along with the Philippine National Police (PNP).

According to Secretary Guevarra, the explosion is an indication of the gravity of NBP’s security problem. – MNP (With reports from Sherwin Culubong)

BuCor officials in ‘GCTA for sale’ controversy still under Senate custody

Marje Pelayo   •   October 4, 2019

Joint Senate committee hearing led by the committee on justice and human rights chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon on the Good Conduct Time Allowance controversy and the so-called “ninja cops” on Thursday, October 3. PRIB/JOSEPH VIDAL

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) awaits the recommendation of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on whether or not to accept under witness protection program (WPP) two of the Bureau of Correction (BuCor) officials involved in the Good Conduct Time Allowance controversy or the ‘GCTA for sale.’

The controversy placed the two BuCor officials, Senior Inspector Maria Belinda ‘Mabel’ Bansil and Officer 3 Veronica ‘Boday’ Buño, in hot water after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) revealed the result of its forensic examination on Buño’s cellular phone.

The two were accused of offering ‘GCTA for sale’ to relatives of inmates in exchange for their early release from jail.

Blue Ribbon Committee Chair Richard Gordon offered Bansil and Buño to subject themselves under WPP but Buño insisted that she didn’t have any personal knowledge about the controversy.

“Wala po talaga akong personal knowledge (I have no personal knowledge),” Buño said.

“Pero iyong mga information po ay napi-feed naman po kahit buong Bureau of Corrections ay alam (But all information was fed and known to the entire Bureau of Corrections),” she added.

The Senate wants to delve deeper into the matter particularly to confirm the alleged deleted exchange of text messages between Bansil and Buño which mentioned names of other BuCor officials including Faeldon and some amount related to the GCTA.

Unless the two disclose their knowledge about the alleged ‘GCTA for sale,’ they will remain under the custody of the Senate after the body cited them in contempt.

Gordon gave Bansil and Buño two to three days to speak on what they know about the matter.

Only then will the Senate hold an executive session to discuss whether or not they will recommend the two to be placed under WPP.

If they agree, they will be entitled to government protection and benefits under Republic Act 6981, otherwise known as ‘The Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act.”

According to the provision of the Law, a person under WPP is entitled to the following:

1. Security protection and escort services;

2. Immunity from criminal prosecution and not to be subjected to any penalty or forfeiture for any transaction, matter or thing concerning his compelled testimony or books, documents or writings produced;

3. A secured housing facility;

4. Assistance in obtaining a means of livelihood;

5. Reasonable traveling expenses and subsistence allowance while acting as a witness;

6. Free medical treatment, hospitalization, and medicine for any injury or illness incurred or suffered while acting as a witness;

7. Burial benefits of not less than Ten Thousand pesos (P10,000.00) if the witness is killed because of his participation in the Program;

8. Free education from primary to college level for the minor or dependent children of a witness who dies or is permanently incapacitated; and,

9. Non-removal or demotion in work because of absences due to his being a witness and payment of full salary or wage while acting as a witness.

These benefits are way more than what the Senate can provide which is limited only to security details and free meals.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, meanwhile, said they have not received any sign from the camps of Bansil and Buñoon whether they will accept the government’s offer of protection. – MNP (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

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