BuCor officials Dr. Ursicio Cenas, lawyer Fredric Anthony Santos and documents processing chief Ramoncito Roque filed a nine-page habeas corpus petition urging the CA to order the Senate to justify why they were detained.
Jeremy Pintolo/File
Detained BuCor execs seek CA relief
(The Philippine Star) - September 19, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Three officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) who were cited for contempt by the Senate filed a petition before the Court of Appeals (CA) yesterday seeking their release from detention.

BuCor officials Dr. Ursicio Cenas, lawyer Fredric Anthony Santos and documents processing chief Ramoncito Roque filed a nine-page habeas corpus petition urging the CA to order the Senate to justify why they were detained.

Senators cited the three prison officials for contempt for their conflicting testimonies before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee investigating the irregular release of prisoners under the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law.

The three have been detained at the Office of the Senate Sergeant-At-Arms, located at the basement of the Senate building, since Sept. 12.

Respondents in the petition included all members of the Senate and officials led by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee.

The petitioners argued that they were constantly harassed by the senators during questioning.

They said they were “invariably arbitrarily interrupted, their answer peremptorily cut short, preventing them from completing their responses” by the senators.

They said the Senate committee had prejudged them as guilty of certain accountability in the alleged selling of GCTA privileges to certain inmates and receiving bribes to allow them to stay at the prison hospital or “hospital passes for sale.”

Since the order for their detention did not give a definite term, the three prison officials raised fears they would continue to be detained until they acknowledge the veracity of the accusation made against them.

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa had moved to cite the three prison officials in contempt for their conflicting testimonies.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson pointed out their conflicting statements when confronted by their accuser during the hearing.

Gordon, on the other hand, said the hearing on the issue will resume today. There were speculations one of them will be released but two other officials of the bureau will remain detained.

Gordon last week said the three prison officials will remain in detention until they satisfactorily answer the questions of senators.

During the Senate hearing, Cenas was accused of receiving bribes in exchange for medical records and allowing the inmates who pretended to be sick to be admitted at the New Bilibid Prison hospital.

While Santos allegedly avoided Gordon’s questions on GCTA, Roque on the other hand had been accused of defrauding relatives of inmates in exchange for early release via the GCTA computations.

The Senate has unravelled several anomalies and rackets involving BuCor officials in the course of its investigation on the GCTA mess.

Senators, meanwhile, called on the BuCor and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to expedite the review of the records of inmates who have surrendered after President Duterte invalidated their release under the GCTA law.

BuCor provided the committee yesterday with the records of the inmates in several plastic containers, prompting Gordon to groan over the overkill when the committee asked the bureau for documents.

“But you know, I’d like to, in a manner of speaking, boost the morale of the surrenderees. If you surrendered, whether you paid for it or not, as long as your (release) was legitimate, don’t be afraid, because we will try to make it a point that we ask the BuCor through the Department of Justice through the proper channels, to release them again. Provided they are qualified,” Sotto told reporters.

He pointed out the implementation of the GCTA was supposed to be automatic but some BuCor officials are making money out of it, asking inmates, even if they are qualified for release, to cough up cash. – With Evelyn Macairan, Paolo Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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