BAGUIO

Cariño: Baguio Connections 77

Baguio Stories

LAST week, hazing and the laws against it. This week, more of the law.

Which was made much of this week at the televised Senate hearings of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law.

The GCTA law, its implementation, and subsequent examination have revealed in the past several weeks that its applied interpretation could be questionable. I.e., are those convicted of heinous crimes entitled to its application? More so, is all that commutation computation commensurate to what is correct, to what is the law?

Which then led the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee (whose heaviest hitters this week are from organizations well known for their hazing practices), conducting hearings on the GCTA, to a minute examination of the goings on in and out of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

One of the Senate resource persons, Rafael Ragos, enumerated for us all some days ago, upon Senator Panfilo Lacson’s relentless probing, the money-making schemes in the BuCor, particularly in the National Penitentiary (Bilibid) itself. Ragos was once in charge of the BUCOR.

Aside from the payments made to get released under the GCTA Law and according to Ragos, there are various payments made by prisoners to avail of various contraband items.

It would seem that the items are peddled by Bilibid employees themselves, who make available at highly marked up prices cell phones, booze, cigarettes, air-conditioning, drugs, and guns, allegedly.

Women to stay the night, or nights. Then there is an amount to be able to hold a party, another to be and stay the chosen “caterer” of the penitentiary meals. There are payments by inmates to be sent to the hospital, in essence to vacation there. And on and on, fantastically.

Enter our good mayor, albeit with great hesitation. He is called upon to be a resource person on why the drug trade in Bilibid cannot be quelled.

With admirable calm and coherence, Mayor Benjamin Magalong spoke of his personal experience as head of Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Criminal Intelligence and Detection Group (CIDG) and how his agency was once suddenly shut out of a raid on Bilibid in 2014, despite CIDG itself having initiated plans for that raid. Which then led to the mayor speaking of other drug activities involving men in uniform themselves.

Which led to current PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde likewise being summoned to the Senate to shed light on a drug raid in Pampanga in 2013, when he was PNP Regional Director of the area.

While he was administratively relieved over the -- again, questionable -- raid and never charged, the hearings revealed that Albayalde had subsequently called current PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) head Aaron Aquino to allegedly ask him to not deliver dismissal orders to the perpetrators of the questionable drug bust.

Which the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee examined to the detail and the law, and found greatly wanting.

On air last Tuesday: Magalong personally exhorted Aquino to reveal the truth. The mayor’s words: “Aaron, this is a fight between right and wrong.”

Yes it is, and not just between the law and lawlessness.


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