Senate to probe 15 unsolved murders of prison officers
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - February 28, 2020 - 12:00am

Investigating the murders of 15 prisons officials in recent years has personal significance for Sen. Richard Gordon. Fifty-three years ago this month his father, Olongapo City mayor James Gordon, was assassinated by a convict purposely sneaked out of prison for the purpose. Same with the 1970 murder of Rep. Floro Crisologo inside a church by a convict-hired gun. Same with the killing of a judge in Tacurong, Cotabato, and the foiled shooting of a House Speaker. “The modus operandi has been going on for decades; we want to find out what is being done about it,” Gordon told “Sapol” radio show on DWIZ last Sat.

The fatal shooting last week of former Bureau of Corrections chief lawyer Frederic Santos follows the pattern, Gordon said. The latter was picking up his child from school when attacked by two motorcycled men. “R-I-T”, riding-in-tandem, the motorized Murder Inc. is called. Only months ago Santos was a reluctant witness in Gordon’s Blue-Ribbon Committee probe of illicitly shortened prison terms. Flip-flopping on his testimony, he had been jailed for contempt. Then the Ombudsman dismissed him for falsifying records of the Good Conduct Time Allowance. “He was cocky all that time,” Gordon quoted his staff who dealt with Santos. “He bragged about contacts inside prison who’d kill for a fee. Three other officers were killed in the past year, including the GCTA record custodian. Were they silenced?”

Gordon’s inquiry started in 2018 with narco-trafficking by billionaire-convicts. Last year recycling of confiscated drugs by “ninja cops” was revealed, with seven active and retired generals linking the National Police chief. Six other major crimes masterminded behind bars surfaced: murder for hire, kidnapping for ransom, bank robbery, protection racket, money laundering, and illegal gambling.

After next week’s hearing on the murders Gordon will report the findings. Many recommendations already are contained in the BuCor reform act: computerization of files; signal jammers; CCTVs; electronic trackers of prison guards’ whereabouts; a training academy for guards; end to inherited positions from kinsmen; proper quarters far from the reach of corrupting, coercing convicts – “a complete overhaul of our prisons,” Gordon said.

Next in line for the Blue-Ribbon body is bureaucratic corruption behind online gambling by Chinese nationals. Other Senate committees had unearthed white slavery, including of minors, labor losses, tax evasion and, of late, the sale of visas-upon-arrival – P10,000 apiece rolled in white letter envelope so nicknamed “pastillas” (milk pastry delicately wrapped in dainty paper). Gordon said the gambling has spawned crimes like kidnapping, illegal detention, torture, extortion, and cyber-fraud. Citing Customs reports of $188 million cash (P9.4 billion) declared at Manila airport by Chinese, Gordon is to look into currency smuggling and money laundering. Lined up too is a whistleblower’s account that a Taiwanese gambling syndicate namedrops one Michael Yang as protector. Yang reportedly brags of closeness to President Rody Duterte, Gordon recalled. During last May’s election campaign, cashiered police colonel Eduardo Acierto claimed, though without proof, that Yang also is into narco-trade. Acierto is himself wanted for the 2018 smuggling into Manila of half a ton of shabu (meth) in magnetic lifters. “For that matter, why is Acierto still out there and not behind bars? What’s going on?” Gordon sighed. “The Blue-Ribbon Committee’s work is never done.”

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“O.O.P.S.: Observing Our Politicians Stumble” is a humorous book for laymen. For politicos it is a serious guide to avoiding unguarded comments and unwise moves. Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano might wish to read Steven Frantzich, PhD. He could pick up pointers on how to get out of the corner he has painted himself into. Isolation is the worst situation for any pol who naturally craves popularity.

Unbecoming were Cayetano’s words about one Senate committee’s inquiry Monday on ABS-CBN’s expiring franchise. “Bakit nag-hearing ang Senate? Ano’ng purpose? Parang nag-a-attendance sa ABS: ‘Hello, I’m here, I’m for you.’ Di ba?” he told reporters. “There’s no question there are solid supporters of ABS. But ‘yung iba ano e, OA [overacting] na e. Parang doomsday na ang ginagawa para lang makapagsipsip e. E hindi ‘yun ang proseso.”

Basic in parliamentary procedure is to never discuss motives, just issues. Only God knows what is in the hearts of men. No amount of prayerfulness or momentary high poll ratings makes man Almighty. Another parliamentary rule is inter-chamber courtesy between the Senate and the House. To think that the House Speaker used to be a multi-term senator. To think too that most of the senators in attendance are his ruling coalition-mates. 

Resort to ad hominem arguments only means Cayetano has lost the debate. Fellow-congressmen will start wondering what he yaks about them too.

Addled too is his claim that passing a Comprehensive Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act is better since it would create 1.5 million jobs, compared to those at stake in ABS-CBN. Merely theoretical is the employment under CITIRA. But unemployment of 11,071 persons is imminent from ABS-CBN’s closure from un-extended franchise.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives: www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

RICHARD GORDON
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