TURNING POINT: Corrections

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NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 26 Oct) – How could a maximum security inmate at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) negotiate with guns-for-hire outside his detention cell to liquidate an irrepressible broadcast journalist? Who ordered and provided him the means to do it? And what is the quid pro quo – the favor said inmate to receive in executing the task?

What bedevils the BuCor at the moment is smack, as usual, of corruption.

No big events happen in Bilibid without some big guns giving the order or a “cashundoan” (money passing hands). Senator Leila de Lima would not have been ganged up by drug lords at NBP without someone up there pulling the string.

The BuCor has always been one of the hotbeds of corruption among government agencies.

Remember the GCTA for Sale issue – the release of heinous crime convicts under the controversial Good Conduct Time Allowance that dragged the names of now Sen. Ronald Bato de la Rosa, former BuCor chief, as well as his immediate successor, Nicanor Faeldon?

Dela Rosa admitted then during a Senate probe that he signed 120 release orders for heinous crime convicts without any authority to do so. Faeldon, said they did not seek the approval of the Department of Justice before releasing hundreds of heinous crime convicts, including the foiled early release of convicted rapist-murderer Antonio Sanchez due to good conduct. Reliable witnesses, relatives of NBP convicts, testified at the senate hearing on GCTA for sale that, indeed, large sums changed hands for inmates’ freedom. Hence, Faeldon was sacked and the release of convicts under good conduct time allowance was abruptly stopped.

But the worst corruption that has been running in the NBP for the last two decades is the shameless construction of kubols owned by wealthy drug personalities and high profile maximum security inmates with the explicit permission of BuCor authorities. A kubol “hut” is a luxurious private residence with all the desired appliances or facilities its owner may install.

Current BuCor Director General Gerald Bantag said it well. “Nagkakaroon sila (kubol owners) ng privacy. Kung may privacy ka, kaya mong gawin ang gusto mong gawin. Puwedeng tumawag ka sa cellphone. Puwedeng mag-shabu ka doon, shabu session. Lahat na ng negative puwede na nilang gawin.”

[Translation.“They (kubol owners) have privacy. If you have privacy, you can do what you want. You can make a call with a cellphone. You can have shabu (methamphetamine drug) and drug session. They can do all the negative (prohibited) activities.”]

Bantag, thus, upon his appointment to the post by PBBM, ordered and had reportedly demolished 500 kubols from January-February 2022.

Accordingly, inmates in maximum security compound were earlier allowed to have “kubol” or huts due to heavy congestion in the national penitentiary. As of 2021, the NBP, with a capacity of 6,435 housed 28,545 inmates.

Allowing the construction of kubols by rich inmates does not, in any way, solve the congestion problem but only fosters a highly corrupt and discriminatory policy of NBP and BuCor management.

It is likely that the alleged middleman in the Percy Lapid (Percival Mabasa) slay was among the BuCor favored convicts in the NBP because he owned a mobile phone like the influential kubol owners that enabled him to contact and hire gunmen from the outside to execute Lapid.

However, before he could even be officially identified (as Crisanto Vilamor, Jr.), the middleman succumbed incredibly to “bangungot” or nightmare at 3 p.m. of Tuesday, October 18, 2022, just a few hours after the self-confessed hitman Joel Escorial revealed that a Jun Villamor at the NBP was the middleman who got in touch with them, the guns-for hire team, on behalf of the mastermind. Escorial affirmed the dead inmate Crisanto Villamor, Jr. as the same person who gave them the hit order. The other middleman, a certain Christopher Bacoto, now detained in an undisclosed BJMP jail, is the one who reportedly facilitated to them the P550,000 payment for the mission.

As he was playing with fire, Villamor was aware that he might get burnt any time soon. He shared his apprehension to his sister in a text message that in case he dies in detention, he should disclose to concerned that the order to kill Lapid came from the office here.

The drama is getting thicker every day. General Bantag who was hailed for his recent blitzkrieg demolition of kubols, a long pestering eyesore which his predecessors gave a blind eye, of a sudden becomes a person of interest in the case.

It’s getting truly interesting every day. A police spokesman said that Percy Lapid’s murder could be related to his work. Lapid was a commentator on DWIZ 883 KHZ and DWBL 1242 AM who was critical of the Duterte administration and some policies and officials of PBBM administration.

In fact, Lapid’s last broadcast commentary on September 30, 2022, three days before he was slain, insinuated that Digong Duterte and party are working at destabilizing the Marcos presidency.

Everybody is excited waiting for the next episode. There would likely be bumps and twists before justice could be served to the fallen journalist, if ever.

We seem to be getting closer to the mastermind. But, would we ever know him? Remember dead men tell no tale. Not only hitman Escorial, therefore, should wear a life vest, nowadays, in or outside prison walls.

Suffice it to say at the moment, the unfolding of events show abundantly that the Bureau of Corrections is in dire need of huge corrections.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)

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