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Rough Cuts | What the GCTA probe brought to the surface

The various money-making activities of some prison officials, some enterprising wealthy inmates and those prisoners who are well-connected that are progressing quite well inside the “walled communities” are now open knowledge to the public. Thanks to the still prevailing controversy created by the grant of Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) to undeserving prisoners.

One example of such businesses is the still unabated procurement of cellular phones by inmates inside such prison facilities as the New Bilibid in Muntinglupa, the women’s Correctional Institute, Iwahig Penal Farm in Palawan, and even in the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) in Panabo and Sto. Tomas in Davao del Norte.

As was found in the course of the investigation on the anomalous grant of GCTA that resulted to the near release of a heinous crime convict in former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez, almost every inmate that has money has one or even two units. But isn’t possession of these communications gadgets one privilege denied convicted criminals?

In fact acquisition of cellphones and other luxurious personal properties was competing in the limelight at the height of the investigation of the illegal drugs trade emanating or directed from inside the New Bilibid Prison by convicted drug lords allegedly with connection to now imprisoned Sen. Leila de Lima. She was a former Secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ). The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) that runs the government’s prison facilities is an agency under the DOJ.

It is common knowledge that the Congressional probes (both Houses of Congress) resulted to the supposedly much stricter implementation of security procedures not only in Bilibid but in all other prison facilities. It also resulted to the changing of leadership in the BuCor several times the latest of which was when the GCTA grant issue erupted.

So, how come possession of such communications gadget is still being enjoyed by those inside prison camps until now as revealed during the early stages of the GCTA grant investigation?

The likely answer to the question is that the prison authorities could just be closing their eyes on the smuggling inside of cellular phones because they are the biggest beneficiaries from the proceeds of the cellular phone business.

But what is worst as disclosed in the ongoing, yet expanding, GCTA inquiry are the businesses run by top executives of the prison facilities themselves. Whoever got wind of the then impending release of convicted Mayor Sanchez and exposed it in the media, deserve every Filipino’s thanks.

Had the Sanchez’s release been implemented without the knowledge of the public the prison officials’ brisk business of selling inmates’ freedom through the GCTA would not have been brought to the surface.

The flourishing trade of leaving out of prison cells by moneyed inmates to stay in the comfort of their private rooms in prison hospitals or even in private medical institutions would not have been known.

The public would not have any idea that certain prison officials are earning millions of pesos monthly as rebates from the food allowance of prisoners paid to favored prison caterers.

Had not the GCTA issue created so much controversy, who would have known that entertainment concerts are held inside prison facilities with paid tickets; that some prison executives are active pimps for whores costing as much as P20,000 to P30,000 for overnight tryst with moneyed convicts?

The seldom put in controversy Dapecol, too, is not that devoid of reports about money making ventures by prisoners who have the means and the connections with the top officials of the penal facility.

According to an account shared to us personally by a newly released inmate from the Colony there are well-heeled and influential prisoners inside who are operating cellular phone charging stations. And these are connected to the electrical installation of the prison facilities.

For each cellphone unit being charged the “entrepreneur” inmates, allegedly in cahoots with certain prison officials, are charging P90. So, with the thousands of inmates in that prison facility, how much money these “businessmen” prisoners and penal farm executives earn on a daily basis? And, if as claimed by our informant the charging stations are connected to the electrical system of the prison compound, these astute entrepreneurs inside do not have any capital investment at all. Unless they are the same people who are smuggling into the prison camp the mobile phone units being sold to the inmates.

It is also unlikely that this cellular phone charging stations inside are not known to the prison officials. One way or the other, high ranking prison executives must have knowledge about this business operation. Why these have progressed as the years go by is one riddle the answer of which is just staring straight in the people’s eyes.

Still another livelihood activity inside Dapecol, according to our informant, is the distribution of rice ration during meal servings for prisoners. The rice serving each meal is measured through a star margarine cup, the smallest one in fact.

And no prisoner can ever ask for additional rice, even a spoonful of the cereal. But as soon as the distribution of the meal ration is completed, a guy our informant called “Rantsero” comes out offering additional small margarine cup rice at P6. The add-on rice being offered for a cost could be part of the daily ration. Or, it could have come from some moneyed inmates who get rice from their relatives visiting them every so often. And they cook and sell it to their fellow inmates who feel they could not make do with just one small margarine cup rice ration from the prison management.

Again the question: Is this allowed inside prison camps? This has to be asked because each prison farm is provided with its operating budget including allocation for food requirements of inmates. Now we can’t help but think of the New Bilibid executives’ millions of pesos in rebates as divulged in the Senate probe. This could be happening in the Dapecol facility. Perhaps it could be a practice in the much smaller Davao City Jail in Maa.

Even a P10 rebate per inmate how much would it amount if there are say 10,000 or 15,000 inmates feed every day of the year? The total is mind-boggling.
If all these surreptitious and illegal businesses are not tentacles of greed gripping the most unlikely places as the prison camps, then what are these?

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