IN CONTEMPT: Bilibid hospital doctor Ursicio Cenas (left photo), BuCor legal chief Frederic Santos and documents chief Ramoncito Roque (right photo) are escorted by Senate security officers after they were ordered detained at the Senate for contempt during a hearing yesterday on prison irregularities.
Geremy Pintolo
All BuCor officials face ax; 3 execs detained for contempt
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - September 13, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte last night declared a massive revamp in the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), saying all of its officials “must go” for a fresh start in the penal agency.

Duterte made the statement hours after three officials of the BuCor were detained after being cited in contempt by the Senate for lying before a congressional inquiry.

Duterte noted the deepening congressional inquiry into the corruption at BuCor that forced him to take the issue head on.

 “So the guys there in BuCor, took upon themselves to arrogate the power and started a practice which was continued…,” Duterte said.

 “Even if it was allowed, corruption was there, corruption was there. Set aside all the legal infirmities there, even if it was allowed, corruption was present,” he said.

New Bilibid Prison (NBP) doctor Ursicio Cenas, Frederic Anthony Santos and Ramoncito Roque were ordered detained after Sen. Ronald dela Rosa moved to cite them in contempt for their conflicting testimonies before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee.

“They’re lying to our faces,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said, supporting Dela Rosa’s move to detain the three officials.

Lacson pointed out the witnesses’ conflicting testimonies when confronted by their accusers during the hearing.

“I know that you’re also afraid so you also joined the rotten system because the truth is, you’re afraid of drug lords who can kill you or your families,” Dela Rosa told Cenas.

The three were detained in rooms at the Office of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms, located at the basement of the Senate building.

Committee chairman Sen. Richard Gordon said the three will remain in detention until they satisfactorily answer the questions of senators.

“The senators would like to see some measure of forthrightness, truthfulness so that they won’t take us for a ride. We’re working, and they’re strolling. My questions are easy but they’re evasive,” Gordon remarked.

He warned the two other BuCor officials—Senior Inspector Maria Belinda Bansil and Corrections Officer 3 Veronica Buño—may also be detained for not being forthright and erasing the messages and call logs from their phones when confiscated by the Senate.

Roque is being accused by Godfrey Gamboa, an inmate at the NBP minimum security compound, and his common-law wife Yolanda Camilon of receiving P50,000 last February for his release under Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) the following month.

The couple also tagged Bansil and Buño as acting as go-between for Roque, who all have not returned the money after Gamboa was still not released after several “postponements.”

Roque denied the allegations and said he made several attempts to return the money to Camilon. He also claimed Bansil and Buño set him up.

Bansil and Buño also denied the accusations, saying it was Camilon who insisted on giving the money.

Senators meanwhile found Santos evasive as he repeatedly denied having any direct knowledge of corruption despite being at the BuCor for 23 years, starting as a jail guard.

Cenas was tagged by Jose Galario Jr., a former Valencia City mayor and police officer, who is now serving sentence at the NBP, as receiving money from him, and much larger amounts from high-profile drug convicts in exchange for admission to the penitentiary hospital where there are less restrictions.

Cenas belied the allegations, saying he thought the money from Galario was some kind of expression of goodwill as they were both from the Visayas.

The Senate committee is investigating alleged anomalies in the BuCor. The Supreme Court had held that the Senate’s power to detain persons cited for contempt would only remain in effect after the conclusion of the inquiry.

The Senate inquiry also highlighted the need to clarify the GCTA law that was used by corrupt BuCor officials.

Duterte said any clarificatory question before the Supreme Court could place doubt on the GCTA law.

“When the Secretary of Justice himself said, we will ask for a clarificatory question or for the SC to explain, that law becomes in doubt or questionable, then you cannot convict a person for the rule that he must be proved to be guilty beyond reasonable doubt,” Duterte explained. – Paolo Romero

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