Dancing inmates all the way to the bank!
SHOOTING STRAIGHT (The Philippine Star) - August 16, 2016 - 12:00am

We’ve always thought that when the drug lords turned the national penitentiary a.k.a. Bilibid Prison into one of the most embarrassing episodes in the presidency of Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III when the Bilibid was discovered to be a haven for drug lords, whose cells even had swimming pools, a disco bar and wide screen TV and these inmates turned the national penitentiary into a shabu laboratory and transshipment point. The whole nation was aghast that this was happening right under the noses of the Justice Department under then Secretary Leila de Lima. This is one of the very reasons why I can’t believe that she won her Senatorial bid.

Meanwhile in Cebu, during the time of Cebu Governor Gwen F. Garcia, the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) became an international hit when their dancing inmates turned viral in the social media circles with CNN interviewing the dancing inmates. Soon, even foreign tourists wanted the CPDRC as part of their tourist destination… and we obliged them… especially during the Sinulog Festival.

Well, six years into the Aquino presidency… the CPDRC experienced a transformation as people would say, from bad to worse! Last Saturday Oplan Greyhound was launched and elements of the Police Regional Office-7, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Special Weapons and Tactics, Regional Public Safety Battalion-7 and K-9 units from the Philippine Coast Guard discovered to their horror 70 sachets of shabu approximately weighing 70-grams estimated to be around P240,000 and lose cash that totaled P4,653,400. Fighting cocks were also found inside the provincial jail allegedly owned by CPDRC Warden Romeo Manansala.

It’s next door neighbor across the street, the Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center (BBRC) also revealed 88 grams of shabu, flat screen TV, mobile phones and P60,440 in cash. The inmate’s claim that the money found were proceeds from their cooperative bakery and grocery store, but this will have to be determined when Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) Director in Central Visayas Allan Iral said that an investigation will be conducted so we’ll know if these dancing inmates are dancing themselves all the way to the bank!

What I would like to know is… when did this transformation happen? We were so proud of the dancing inmates of CPDRC to the point that even foreign tourists would join them on the parade grounds to dance with them with Selfies to show to the world that we had happy inmates in the Cebu jail. For sure… there is a drug lord who has profited from this connection to the BJMP top jail guards and likewise jail guards who are handsomely rewarded for giving a blind eye to this illegal activities. In fact a Habal-Habal driver told me once that packets of shabu can be secured from the jail… just call a mobile number and pass under the walls of the jail and packets of shabu would fall into your lap… it is that easy to make money on illegal drugs.

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Today is a red-letter day for the 888 News Forum that holds its sessions every 9 a.m. on Tuesdays at the Marco Polo Plaza Hotel. It all began on Aug. 8, 2006 when five people, notably, chairman emeritus Robert “Bobby” Joseph, Malou Guanzon Apalisok of Cebu Daily News, Jenny Franco of the National Assn of Independent Travel Agents (NAITAS), then Parklane general manager Rey Fuentes and then Department of Tourism (DOT) Regional Director Patria “Dawnee” Roa.

The first venue of the 888 News Forum was Parklane Hotel when Rey Fuentes was its general manager. Then after a year, it moved to the Waterfront Hotel when Marco Protacio was its general manager. During the time of Marco Polo Plaza Hotel general manager Hans Hauri, the 888 News Forum moved to its permanent home, which it continues on today.  But while it started life on a twice monthly News Forum… today 888 News Forum appears on a weekly basis and since the last four years, it has been featured by MyTV on SkyCable channel 30 and on the Parasat Cable in Northern Mindanao on Channel 28 in Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon.

888 News Forum is anchored by SunStar’s Ely Baquero and Ricky Poca. A few years ago, annual awards were given out to outstanding individuals and institutions for exemplary achievements and contributions in the field of tourism promotions, environmental protection, governance in local govt., community health, etc. Among its past awardees are: former Tourism Secretary Ace Durano, Palawan Mayor Ed Hagedorn, Environmental activist Atty. Tony Oposa, Bohol Governor Ed Chatto, Cebu Vice-Governor Agnes Magpale, Eileen Mangubat, Jimmy Picornell, Jessica Avila, Mila Espina, Armi Garcia, etc. For Institutions: Cebu City Tourism Commission, Cebu Cancer Institute, VECO, Marco Polo Plaza Cebu among others. Congratulations to all the members of the 888 News Forum! More power!

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Email: vsbobita@mozcom.com or vsbobita@gmail.com.

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