Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, during the Senate hearing on the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) controversy on Monday, September 9, recommended that all Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials involved in the process of granting GCTAs be immediately relieved from their duty.
“Mr. Chair, sa dami ng dinaanan ng proseso ng GCTA, I believe na marami ang sumakay at ginamit ito para sa corruption. Because of this, I am recommending to Secretary Guevarra, at nabanggit na rin ito ni Pangulong Duterte to relieve all BuCor officials who are handling the process of GCTA. Those who are next in rank will assume their duties,” Go said.
“Ayoko pong magbintang nang walang ebidensya. I want to give the authorities a chance to thoroughly conduct an extensive investigation to get to the bottom of this. Pero inuulit ko, sa dami ng dinadaanan ng GCTA, marami po akong nakausap, maaaring maraming opisyal sa baba ang sumabay at nakinabang sa mga kalokohang ito,” he added.
Before attending the Senate hearing, Go on Monday morning visited the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City to assess the situation of the people deprived of liberty (PDLs) and listen to their concerns. Go also met with officials to check on alleged anomalies happening in the NBP hospital.
“May nakarating na reports sa akin na may anomalyang nagaganap sa NBP hospital. Narito ako para pakinggan sila, para imbestigahan,” Go said after reports came out that prison officials and personnel sell hospital passes to inmates who allegedly transact their illegal drug trade inside the NBP hospital.
Go has received reports that some inmates were moved into the NBP Hospital by faking their illness and buying the so-called “hospital referral pass” from BuCor employees.
“Nagpapanggap na may sakit para ma-admit sa ospital, pagkatapos doon na nagaganap ang illegal drug trading. Hindi lang pala ang GCTA ang for sale. Pati na rin ang hospital pass, for sale rin pala sa Bilibid. Sa NBI po, and Secretary Guevarra, baka pwede ninyo pong paimbestigahan ito,” Go said.
“Naglagay tayo ng maayos na ospital sa loob ng kulungan for humanitarian reasons. Ngunit ito rin pala ay inaabuso at binababoy ng mga empleyadong mukhang pera,” he stressed.
During his visit, Go also assessed the situation of the inmates in the national penitentiary after he received complaints related to the provision of basic needs and health services.
“Marami na matatandang inmates na may sakit,” Go said. “May reklamo rin sa pagkain nila. Ipararating ko po ito kay Pangulong Duterte. Sinabi ko rin kay Gen. Buenafe pabilisan at ayusin ang medical services nila,” he said.
Go said he has already coordinated with Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III to provide for the needs of the patients in Bilibid. “Kaysa po ma-expire ‘yung mga medisina ninyo, ibigay ninyo na lang po doon sa may mga sakit.”
“Marami din silang requests katulad ng (para sa) cardiovascular diseases, and dialysis machines. Dami na pong preso na nagkakasakit doon sa minimum security. Gamitin natin ang hospital sa tama. May mga naka-wheelchair kanina doon na matatanda may mga problema na po sila sa pandinig, dapat sila ang nasa hospital,” Go said.
The senator also raised concerns if the process of granting GCTA is being fairly applied to convicts.
“Nakita ko rin kanina mas daming matatanda sa minimum security pero mayroon po akong tanong, bakit mas naunang nakakalaya sa maximum? Marami doon naka whelchair baka di na aabot sa kanilang kalayaan mamatay na sila. Ang tanong ko bakit unang nakakalaya ang nasa maximum kaysa doon sa minimum dahil ba mayaman sila o talagang mayroong sumasakay dito?,” he asked during the Senate hearing.
Meanwhile, the Senator said that he has filed a bill to give free legal assistance to members of the police and military who may need it when facing cases for acts committed while in the performance of their duties.
“Ang ilan sa mga preso doon ay dating mga pulis, nabanggit nga rin niya po si Senator Ping Lacson. Noong unang panahon, mga 1990s, may problema daw po sila sa operations, may problema daw po sila sa legal assistance, kanya kanya po sa pag-hire ng mga abugado, noong unang panahon,” Go narrated.
“At this point, I would like to mention Senate Bill 393 which I filed to provide free legal assistance to officers of the PNP and AFP to help them in their legal needs especially in line of duty. Sa kasalukuyang administrasyon, full support po si Pangulong Duterte sa militar at sa kapulisan lalong-lalo na in line of duty, sabi ni Pangulong Duterte, sagot ka niya,” he added.
Go mentioned that he went to Bilibid upon receiving requests from some inmates who wish to relay to the Senator their current situation as well as to report any knowledge they have about the anomalies allegedly happening inside the penitentiary.
“Last week nanawagan po sa akin si Ms. Yolanda. Sinabi po niya na may convicted felon na gusto ako kausapin regarding sa mga problema sa loob ng Bilibid at mga katiwalian doon. Nakausap ko na po si Mr. Romeo Valdez,” he said.
“To heed that call, I went to the New Bilibid Prison this morning and spoke to the inmate myself. Based (on) my assessment, GCTA is being used by alleged corrupt officials from BuCor to give false hope to convicted felons. The GCTA is being used to extort money from unassuming prisoners, with the promise that they will be released through the computation of the GCTA,” added Go.
Go also appealed to those victimized by corrupt BuCor officials to report what they know and help government crackdown on corrupt and abusive officials.
“Along the way, Mr. Chair, maraming lumapit sa akin kanina, kagaya na rin po ni Romeo Valdez. To the victims of this mess, just like what President Duterte said, please, do not hesitate to seek our help. Sabi nga ni Presidente, isumbong niyo po sa kanya, papakinggan niya kayo, 24 hours a day, at sinasabi niya na pwede iparating sa akin, isumbong ninyo kay Bong,” he said.
The Senator’s visit came in view of reports that officials of BuCor sold GCTA credits to prisoners who want to reduce their jail time.
The Blue Ribbon committee held a late-night hearing on the GCTA controversy on Thursday, September 5, where a witness, Yolanda Camelon, came forward to confirm the existence of a “GCTA for sale” scheme in the correction facilities. Investigations are set to be conducted by the Ombudsman and other government agencies to look into the controversy.
“I have said this before, and I will say it again… 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,” Go said.