Sunday, December 21, 2014
De Lima Issues Ultimatum on Clearing Prisons
“Lesser evil” or not being the reason behind the proliferation of contraband luxury items inside the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP), Justice Secretary Leila de Lima gave key prison officials until December 24 to surrender them all, including firearms, drugs, and ammunition, or the raids will continue.
Supt. Celso Bravo, officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Corrections’ Office of the Assistant Director for Prison and Security, said De Lima gave the ultimatum after a second inspection visit to the NBP on Friday morning. De Lima met with the Council of Elders or “bosyo” and told them to cooperate in the ongoing search operations for contrabands.
The DOJ will conduct an investigation into the entry of contrabands into the prison facility and those who will be found guilty will be held liable.
As this developed, one of the key prison officials at the center of the contraband controversy is ready to face any investigation and maintained that he allowed the entry of appliances and other gadgets into the facility to prevent deaths and violence among inmates.
Davao Prison and Penal Farm Supt. Venancio Tesoro, who was the NBP superintendent from July 2013 to December 2013, told Manila Bulletin that he is ready to face the investigation that will be conducted by the DOJ through the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
“I’m open to investigation,” he said.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Firearms and Explosives (FEO) director P/Chief Supt. Virgilio Moro Lazo, also said the registered owners of the firearms seized from inmates will be asked to explain how those guns ended in the possession of other people.
Earlier reports said that several firearms were found in the “kubol” (quarters) of Peter Co and other inmates during the Dec. 15 at the NBP.
Co, one of the high profile prisoners at the NBP, yielded a cache of firearms that included several pistols and an M-16 rifle, which according to records from the FEO, were registered to several politicians and a government employee.
Lazo, however, said that most of the firearms that were recovered already have expired licenses. “So, those are loose firearms now. Those found in possession of these firearms should be charged,” he added. Lazo further said that the duly registered owners of the firearms who failed to report the loss to the PNP may also be held liable.
Lazo said the FEO is also conducting its own investigation as to how the firearms ended up with the prisoners at the correctional facility, much more that these prisoners are not ordinary inmates, but are drug leaders.
Tesoro said to make the activity centers inside the NBP’s maximum security compound “attractive and worth attending to,” he allowed the entry of air conditioning units, exhaust and electric fans, TV sets, radio.
“Kung may mali, what I did was the lesser evil to save lives,” he said, referring to encouraging inmates away from gang violence and deaths inside the facility.
He said he could have employed cruelty or coercion to get prisoners to his side but instead, he decided to establish activity centers for the inmates.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima issued a show-cause order against Tesoro and other prison officials to explain the entry of contraband into the maximum facility.
Tesoro said when he was the NBP superintendent, “My task was to address the growing restiveness, violence, substance abuse, unmitigated drug trade and mysterious deaths of scores of inmates.”
He said he noticed the conspiracy of organized inmate groups in covering up and establishing smokescreen in incidents requiring investigation.
“There was, however, a dilemma. If I will use an iron hand in dealing with (the) inmates, rude behavior and gang imposed belligerence, anti-torture and human rights laws may get me in hot waters. Yet I must immediately commence an activity if only to address the challenges confronting my administration,” he explained.
He said he used the classic approach of dangling a “carrot” by introducing privileges to the inmates.
“I organized several Activity Centers (handicrafts workshops, vocational centers, tailoring shops, therapeutic centers, automotive courses, adult education clinics, reading centers, libraries) and constructive facilities for these activities,” he said.
During his stint as NBP superintendent, he said, “there was general peace and order” adding that “reports on substance abuse and mysterious deaths were reduced markedly.”
He said as a result, “lives have been saved, skills have been brokered and that for me says a lot if what I did contravenes my mandate as a prison officer.”
Tesoro said supervising the maximum security compound composed of the “most dangerous sector in our society is not a walk in the park.”
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