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Diokno in No-win Situation - P-Noy

Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director-on-leave Ernesto Diokno
Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director-on-leave Ernesto Diokno

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino has indicated that Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director-on-leave Ernesto Diokno is in a no-win situation, even as the report of the Department of Justice (DOJ) on convicted murderer Jose Antonio Leviste’s unauthorized vacation in Makati City is expected to reach Malacañang today.

The President told reporters during his state visit in Thailand last week that he could not understand why Diokno did not know about Leviste’s caper, or if he did, why he allowed it to happen.

Aquino recalled that he had warned Diokno against giving special treatment to certain inmates.

“Obviously that is not the policy of this administration. But at the same time, we will not act or react on the statement of anybody. There has to be rule of law, there has to be due process,” the President said.

Aquino acknowledged that his relationship with the BuCor director goes as far back as the late 1980s, when Diokno was appointed deputy district director of the Western Police District by the President’s mother, Corazon Aquino, during her presidency. But loyalty is not the issue, President Aquino said.

He said what is important is that Diokno submits himself to the DOJ investigating body and explains properly how things are done at the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP).

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said yesterday she would hand the report to Aquino after she has reviewed the findings and recommendations of the five-member panel created to determine the possible liability of Diokno and other BuCor and NBP officials over Leviste’s caper.

“I have to prepare a covering memorandum about my own insights. I have the prerogative to do that because at the end of the day I will be accountable to the President for this report,” she explained.

She refused to reveal details of the report, saying the President should be the first to read it.

Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, who supervised the probe, hinted earlier that the DOJ panel has found certain BuCor and NBP officials and prison guards criminally and administratively liable. Baraan said charges infidelity in custody of prisoner are likely to be filed.

At the start of the DOJ hearing on Monday last week, Leviste admitted abusing his living-out privilege and said it would be “unfair” for anyone to be sanctioned because he acted on his own.

He said he tried to seek permission for leaving the NBP reservation but no official was around at the time. He added that NBP guards did not check his vehicle when they passed by.

Leviste said prisoners could easily escape from the 536-hectare facility if they wanted to because there are seven exit and entry points within the premises.

Lax security within the prison compound and the reservation made it easy for a prisoner to leave unnoticed.

Last Tuesday, Fortunato Justo, the prison custodian assigned to Leviste, admitted lapses in performing his duty when the 71-year-old convict sneaked out of the NBP on May 18.

On the last day of the hearing last Wednesday, Diokno denied liability in Leviste’s unauthorized furlough and instead pinned the blame on NBP superintendent Ramon Reyes and other NBP officials who have direct supervision over the minimum security compound.

The DOJ has filed a complaint for evasion of service of sentence against Leviste and his driver Nilo Solis before the Makati City Metropolitan Trial Court.

De Lima also ordered an inventory of inmates not only within the NBP but also in other penal colonies and farms.

“I will apply command responsibility when it comes to security lapses,” she warned.

De Lima has assigned Parole and Probation Administration chief Manuel Co to take over BuCor while Diokno is on leave.

Probe of Ampatuan’s special treatment on

In a related development, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo has conducted an investigation into reports that the Ampatuans are getting special treatment and roaming freelyt around Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

“Robredo had focused on the issue for several months and conducted many surprise visits to unearth the truth on the allegations of special treatment. Once the investigation is completed they will settle once and for all whether the Ampatuans did receive special treatment or not,” President Aquino said.

Camp Bagong Diwa’s warden is not yet off the hook despite Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu’s admission that the photos he produced showing the Ampatuans being given VIP treatment at the detention center were taken last year.

Robredo said Warden Chief Inspector Glenford Valdepenas remains relieved of his post until he can explain why relatives of the victims in the massacre are accusing him of giving the Ampatuans special treatment.

Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) Director Rosendo Dial has appointed Senior Inspector Bernardino Camus to head the Camp Bagong Diwa detention facility.

Mangudadatu claimed that Ampatuan patriarch Andal Sr. was able to use a mobile phone while in detention and could walk freely in and out of jail, Dial denied the allegations, saying these would be impossible because of the tight security enforced in the facility.

Two teams from the BJMP tactical unit have been deployed until the investigation is completed.

Robredo said he had authorized surprise visits by the lawyers and relatives of the massacre victims long before the allegation of special treatment came out.

As this developed, the chief of BJMP’s health service unit in Metro Manila was removed from her post after recommending the check up of Andal Sr. with a “non-existent” doctor at the Makati Medical Center (MMC).

Dial said Dr. Victoria Valeria was replaced by Dr. Agnes Aglipay.

In her May 4 report to Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221, Valeria diagnosed Andal Sr. with osteoritis in his left ankle joint, contrary to his claim that his right foot was in pain, probably due to his prostate condition.

Valeria then recommended that Andal Sr. be examined by physician Glenn Santos of the MMC “for further evaluation and management as outpatient.”

On May 9, Solis-Reyes asked Valeria to explain in writing why Ampatuan had to be referred to a private hospital. Valeria, in her May 12 explanation, said that it was Glenn Santos who earlier diagnosed Andal Sr.

However, a check by prosecution lawyer Nena Santos with the MMC showed that no doctor by the name of Glenn Santos was working there.

The hospital also issued a certification, a copy of which was obtained by The STAR through the lawyer, last May 16 to support its claim.

Ty eyes private firms to manage jail facilities

At the House of Representatives, Rep. Arnel Ty of the party-list group Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers Association proposed yesterday the outsourcing of jail services to private investors.

“Government should now seriously consider relegating to private entities the provision and management of prison and jail facilities. We have to eventually transfer to private firms the performance of detention, correction and rehabilitation services. This is the only way we can maintain a cost-efficient penal system in the future,” Ty said.

In the U.S., Ty said tens of thousands of inmates are now being housed and managed by private companies that bid competitively at the federal, state and municipal levels for contracts to provide such jail services.

One of the largest among the firms is Nashville, Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America, which owns, operates and manages 66 correctional facilities - including those for juveniles - with more than 70,000 inmates.

“Government now spends more than P40,000 per inmate every year. If more efficient private contractors can do a better job of housing, feeding and caring for inmates at a more economical rate, then this could mean not just improved services for inmates, but also huge cost-savings for taxpayers,” Ty said.

“In America and other countries, private contractors are able to spend less because they rely heavily on high-technology security solutions and less on staff. Thus, they are able to re-channel savings to improve meals and education services for inmates,” he said.

The BJMP runs 418 jails with some 80,000 detainees. The BuCor maintains seven prisons with around 36,000 inmates.

In 2007, then Chief Justice Reynato Puno said government would be better off conveying to private firms the administration of detention facilities, in order to address massive overcrowding.

“If the State is financially unable to maintain a viable system, one option would be to privatize our detention facilities, which is already being done in more progressive countries,” he said.