A veteran lawmaker has called on for the mass resignation of all prison guards and officials of the New Bilibid Prison or NBP, urging Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to create a special body that will investigate the Bilibid scandal.
Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian emphasized that the Bilibid scandal is not only shameful to the government but a total insult to the country’s entire judicial system.
“How can this happen under the nose of the NBP management for years? This is totally unacceptable and all NBP personnel – from top to bottom – should resign immediately,” Gatchalian said.
“Everybody in the NBP should file their courtesy resignation to give DOJ a freehand in replacing discredited and ineffective personnel. An independent body should also be set up to investigate the all jail guards and prison officials, and the guilty ones should be charged in court and sent to jail,” he added
Gatchalian said the imprisoned Very Important Prisoners (VIPs) exposed in the Bilibid scandal could not have built their luxurious and state-of-the art “kubols” without the knowledge and explicit permission from officials of the NBP and the Bureau of Corrections or BuCor.
“The NBP functions like a police force, wherein the chain of command is being implemented and followed. This means that the lowly prison guards get orders from their superior officers, who in turn get their orders from the NBP director and ultimately from officials of the BuCor,” Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian, who is familiar with the workings of the city jail of Valenzuela City where he was a three-term mayor from 2004 to 2013, explained that NBP and BuCor officials cannot escape from this “chain of command”.
He clarified that this means the entire NBP officialdom are liable for the breakdown of order and discipline among prisoners, particularly those detained in the maximum security compound where the luxurious “kubols” equipped with appliances were discovered this week by Secretary De Lima.
He said the luxurious villas of the drug lords exposed in the Bilibid scandal are far more extravagant than the kubol of former Rep. Romeo Jalosjos.
“And the most shocking part of it is the discovery of high-powered firearms in the possession of convicted drug traffickers who can even start a violent prison riot,” he said.
Gatchalian said the serious breach of order and security in the NBP calls for a total cleansing of the national penitentiary, which means that all the prison guards and officials of NBP has to go, with the guilty ones being criminally charged in court.
He proposed that soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) be tapped for prison guard duties at the NBP until such time that the DOJ and BuCor have recruited enough prison guards who will replace the sacked NBP personnel.
“It would be a good idea if newly retired or former soldiers from the army, navy and air force are given priority in the recruitment as NBP guards provided that they pass a thorough background check which can be provided by their former military units,” said Gatchalian, who called on the DOJ to seriously study his proposal.
Gatchalian maintained that ex-soldiers, particularly those who are battle-tested, cannot be easily frightened by hardened criminals and will stand their ground and resist attempts by convicted drug lords to bribe them into giving certain luxuries to detainees.
The House justice committee will resume next month its NBP probe, in which officials of the DOJ and BuCor will be summoned to explain why anomalies in the NBP maximum security compound have worsened even after these were exposed in the 2011 probe of the special privileges accorded to former Batangas Gov. Antonio Leviste.
The House committee on justice held a series of hearings on the NBP abuses over the last three years, two of which were held in the facility itself. (R. Burgos)