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Cebu News

Special privileges, illegal rentals, etc.: Anomalies hound CPDRC - Provincial Board

Kristine B. Quintas - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - The Cebu Provincial Rehabilitation and Detention Center, which rose to worldwide prominence for its dancing inmates, finds itself in a different kind of spotlight as more alleged irregularities are being brought to light.

In addition to allegedly being used for illegal drug activities, an initial investigation by the Provincial Board has revealed that CPDRC personnel are also behind the smuggling of contraband into the jail and the renting out of conjugal rooms to generate money, among others.

Board Member Sun Shimura invited CPDRC Jail Warden Romeo Manansala to yesterday's session of the Provincial Board to shed light on the alleged irregularities and Vice Governor Agnes Magpale and some members of the PB grilled the seemingly tense Manansala.

Magpale took the podium to question Manansala of the many lapses of CPDRC under his and CPDRC consultant Marco Toral's watch.

These include the deaths of 10 inmates due to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, an inmate who escaped using a visitor's pass, and the operation of human trafficking and cyber pornography inside the jail. Also, mentioned was Toral's firing of a warning shot to scare prisoners disobeying jail policies.

Magpale claimed that Toral, consultant on jail matters, allowed married inmates to rent conjugal rooms, earning him as much as P20,000 to P30,000 per month for each room, without the knowledge of the government. The profits is reportedly neither remitted to the government nor used for the improvement of jail facilities. 

She also said the wife of an alleged drug lord, a certain Jun Noel has free access to the jail without submitting to inspections given to regular visitors. Another inmate, a certain Jerryfer Perigrino who was jailed for drugs, is also allegedly allowed to park his red car inside CPDRC and to own three fighting cocks; while another inmate close to Toral is allegedly being entrusted with the key to the jail's armory.

Perigrino was reportedly found in a compound outside the Cebu City Jail and the CPDRC with drugs, paraphernalia, debit cards and cash following a raid on both jails last Saturday.

The suspect claimed to be the caretaker of fighting cocks inside the compound that allegedly belong to Manansala which the latter belied yesterday.

Manansala, however, said it was true Toral twice fired warning shots and is also behind renting out conjugal rooms which he said can be availed of at P30 per hour. He said Toral publicly admitted this over a radio interview earlier.

CPDRC has 16 conjugal rooms, but four of them are now being used as prisoners' quarters due to the overcrowding. Manansala said it was Toral who had the dilapidated rooms repaired.

He told the PB that he warned Toral about the firing the gun, the fighting cocks, and renting out conjugal rooms without official receipts, but "out of respect" to Toral he allowed the irregularities to go on.

PB Member Raul Bacaltos said it only shows that Manansala is "under" Toral even though he has the authority over the latter.

"Nagpasabot kini nga nagdanghag ang atong warden," he said.

Aside from that, Magpale said sources reported that Toral sold gadgets like cellphones, laptops, and iPads to inmates, and that sometimes inmates' families were allowed to stay beyond the visiting days, which are Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Manansala confirmed it happened during Toral's birthday when inmates' families stayed from Thursday to Monday morning.

Toral already resigned as consultant on jail matters last August 8 due to "personal reasons." However, Governor Hilario Davide III earlier said Toral left because he could no longer take the pressure and stress of the job, and mentioned the recent happenings at CPDRC were reasons to end his ties with the provincial government.

The thought of these violations and Manansala's earlier statement of Magpale being misinformed of CPDRC issues agitated the vice governor in yesterday's session.

 Magpale said she started her investigation after the German Consul Franz Seidenschwarz brought to her attention the ongoing cyber pornography operations of German national Thomas Michael Ruhland inside the jail. She said she started digging for information and conducted surveillance to prove allegations involving jail personnel.

"I wanted this investigation to prove my point that I was not misinformed. I had everything documented," she said.

Moreover, Magpale said Tuburan Mayor Aljun Diamante alleged that drug supply in his town came from CPDRC, although they are still collecting data to back this allegation. Board Member Edsel Galeos, former Argao mayor, also said the drug suspects they apprehended also reported they sourced from CPDRC.

Relief

Davide said Manansala might be relieved following the reported incidents, but he is still hesitant to see him go because no one else is still suitable to handle the job.

"Nagproblema pa ta kay nangita ta somebody na suitable nga makapuli niya. In the meantime na-assistant nako," says Davide.

The governor is currently the acting CPDRC warden and will oversee jail operations while the investigation against all jail personnel is being conducted.

Manansala, who could not contain his emotion, admitted that he is already thinking of leaving his post.

"I was thinking of resigning. Pahulay nako. Long overdue nako sa pagka- warden and to give chance sa mga daghan batan-on diha," he said.

Shimura told Manansala not to resign to give himself an opportunity to clear his name of the allegations.

Magpale said the province deserves someone better to manage the CPDRC, but said the PB might not allow Manansala to resign as he is still accountable for many things.

She said they are also discussing how to make Toral accountable for all the violations mentioned.

Investigation

Manansala and at least seven CPDRC guards are facing investigation over the smuggling of contraband into the jail. The Committee on Discipline and Investigation headed by Provincial Legal Officer Orvi Ortega is now investigating them.

Visitation privileges are still suspended until the investigation is complete and the people behind the smuggling identified.

The PB, through the motion of Shimura, directed Manansala to submit the result of their own investigation, which concluded Sunday, to the Office of the Governor. The PB likewise asked Davide to act immediately on the issue and sanction those involved in the said illegal activities.

Manansala said he will request Davide to reassign the personnel to other departments outside CPDRC.

Management

The Capitol is considering letting others manage the CPDRC considering the issues hounding the jail. Davide said he has been thinking about the suggestion to let the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology manage the provincial jail. Cebu, he said is the only province in the country where the government runs the jail.   (FREEMAN)

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