MEDIA ON PRISON SYSTEM

Detainee killed in Rizal jailbreak
By Non Alquitran and Ed Amoroso (The Philippine Star) Updated March 01, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (0)

MANILA, Philippines – A detainee was killed while two others were wounded in a shootout with responding policemen minutes after they bolted jail in Teresa, Rizal yesterday.
Another detainee was recaptured while the fifth one made good his escape and is now the subject of a massive police manhunt.
Mario Cruz, 50, sustained multiple gunshot wounds in the body while Garry Borja, 35, and Reynaldo Tampepe, 34, sustained minor injuries.
A detainee, Norman Pollarca, 24, was captured in a brief chase but Jomer Cruz, who is facing three drug-related charges managed to elude his pursuers.
Superintendent Amado Concepcion, the chief of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Teresa town in Rizal was sacked hours after the incident.
Senior Superintendent Manuel Cesar Prieto, Rizal police provincial director said the five detainees, facing drugs and murder charges in Taytay town bolted jail by destroying the exhaust fan at the ceiling of the District Jail building located inside the municipal compound of Teresa town at about 2 a.m. yesterday.
Prieto said the detainees, using an improvised knife (pointed fork), took hostage Jail Officer 1 Lito Panganuran and disarmed his companion, JO1 Roy Bangawan.
The detainees destroyed the cyclone wire surrounding the jail compound, and commandeered a tricycle and directed its driver to drive toward nearby Morong town.
owever, the beleaguered jail guards sought the help of the nearby elements of the Teresa police who immediately gave chase and caught up with the escapees in Morong.
Cruz, who is facing five counts of drug charges, opened fire at the pursuing lawmen, who returned his fire.
Borja, Tampepe and Pollarca were cornered after a brief chase, said Prieto.
Borja and Pollarca are facing drug charges in Taytay town while Tampepe was charged with rape. The trio are now back in jail.
Calabarzon police director Chief Superintendent Samuel Pagdilao Jr. directed Prieto to join the BJMP team in tracking down Jomer Cruz who was charged with three counts of illegal drugs possession.
Upon receipt of the jailbreak report, BJMP chief Director Rosendo Dial sacked Concepcion under his command’s “one strike policy.”
Meanwhile, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo yesterday ordered the relief of the warden of the Teresa District Jail in the province of Rizal, following the escape of five inmates early yesterday morning.

Robredo ordered the immediate relief of Teresa District Jail warden Superintendent Amado Concepcion, who was immediately replaced by Chief Inspector Melchor Antigua as officer-in-charge of the district jail.
The DILG chief said the incident yesterday was the third jailbreak in the country this year.
The first was in Cotabato City Jail last Jan. 20 where one was recaptured out of the 16 escapees, while the second was in Caloocan City on Jan. 21 with three escapees. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe

Diokno suspension sought
But DoJ says President has disciplinary powers over BuCor director
By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
1:31 am | Saturday, May 21st, 2011
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MANILA, Philippines—Justice Secretary Leila de Lima would have wanted Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director Ernesto Diokno put on preventive suspension for former Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste’s alleged abuse of his “living out” arrangement at the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP).
But Diokno is an appointee of President Benigno Aquino III, and he has a right to due process, De Lima yesterday pointed out to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “I can only recommend his preventive suspension to the President, who has disciplinary powers over [him],” she said.
In a chance interview with reporters, De Lima said she also had to wait for the recommendations of the fact-finding panel that she had formed to look into Leviste’s “caper.”
Today at 8 a.m., the panel is to begin an ocular inspection of the NBP’s minimum security compound, where Leviste was supposed to be staying as part of his “living out” arrangement.
Leviste was sentenced in September 2009 to 6-12 years in prison for killing his longtime aide and friend Rafael de las Alas in 2007. He was arrested last Wednesday outside the family-owned LPL Building in Makati City for leaving the national penitentiary without a permit.
Yesterday, the former governor was charged with evasion of service of sentence in the Makati Metropolitan Trial Court (MMTC). His driver, Nilo Solis, was also charged as an accomplice.
If the court finds Leviste guilty of the new charge, 6-12 more years will be added to his existing prison sentence.
More than a warning
Asked why she would have wanted Diokno put on preventive suspension right away, De Lima said: “If you know that things like that happen within your area of responsibility, you should have done something at first instance more than just giving a warning to the inmate.
“The warning and, much better, sanctions on the guard and on the officials having direct supervision [on them] should have been immediately imposed.”
De Lima said Diokno should be able to explain to the fact-finding panel the steps he purportedly took when he heard the rumors of Leviste’s regular trips out of the NBP.
Diokno is among the officials to be summoned by the panel for its marathon hearings on May 23-25 at the Department of Justice.
De Lima said it was “not remote” that the panel would recommend Diokno’s preventive suspension.
Should it recommend administrative charges against him, it is the Office of the President that will have jurisdiction over him, she said.
No duplication
In the department order she issued on Thursday, De Lima said the fact-finding panel’s inquiry “shall include a determination of whether the caper of Mr. Leviste was not the first time.”
The panel is headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Dacanay, with Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Ma. Emilia Victorio, National Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director Ruel Lasala, and State Counsel Wilberto Tolitol and Charlene Mae Tapic as members.
De Lima said she expected a report from the panel within five days after the completion of the inquiry. She said she had instructed Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, who was tasked to oversee the investigation, to order the termination of the BuCor’s internal probe of the matter to avoid “duplication and overlapping.”
“The [justice department’s probe] is independent … The internal investigation would not be credible. Whatever is the outcome, whether correct or not, would be subject to suspicion and also because of the potential culpability of the officers [in the BuCor], including Director Diokno himself. It doesn’t make sense that there’s a duplication of efforts. We will do the investigation so there won’t be a conflict,” De Lima said.
Asked about the President’s reported close ties with Diokno, De Lima said she believed that it was “a nonissue” as of now.
Benefit of the doubt
“At this point, let’s give everyone the benefit of the doubt,” De Lima said.
She noted that the reported close friendship between the two men could be an issue “if, let’s say, the results of the investigation and even the formal administrative proceedings would confirm the culpability of Director Diokno, and then the President would be indecisive on the matter or dilly-dally.”
“The issue against [Mr. Aquino] could be revived,” De Lima said. “Remember what happened in the [August 2010] hostage-taking? The IIRC (Incident Investigation and Review Committee) report? People have cast aspersions on that, that there’s this [perception] that he is protective of his allies.”
De Lima said she wanted no repetition of the issue.
“I fully support the President. As a subordinate and alter ego of the President, I do not want that to be another issue,” she declared.
Monday raffle
The MMTC is to raffle off Leviste’s case for court assignment on Monday at 2 p.m., according to court docket division head Jimmy de Castro.
In the charge sheet, Senior State Prosecutor Lilian Doris Alejo said that Leviste “knowingly, willfully and feloniously, escaped his confinement … as he was seen and arrested outside the LPL Building along Gallardo Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City.”
Alejo also presided over the inquest proceedings on Thursday. In her two-page resolution, she said probable cause was found to charge Leviste in court for the offense because he was “seen and arrested in Makati City on May 18, 2011, which is definitely outside the confines of the [NBP], located in Muntinlupa City.”
“All elements of the offense being present, there is probable cause to hold the respondent Leviste liable,” she said. With a report from Penelope Endozo

EDITORIAL – Privileged prisoners
(The Philippine Star) Updated May 21, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (3)

Prisoners are allowed “living out” privilege or to serve their sentence outside a detention cell but within a prison reservation for humanitarian reasons in the case of inmates aged 70 or older. For the rest, the privilege is in line with the main purpose of the modern penal system, which is rehabilitation: “living out” is meant to provide community immersion to a prisoner whose release is imminent.
With lax security or corrupt custodians, however, the privilege can be easily abused. This appears to be the case with regard to Jose Antonio Leviste, who was arrested last Wednesday afternoon in Makati outside the LPL building, which he owns. Leviste is serving a sentence of up to 12 years for killing his aide, Rafael de las Alas, in his office in the same building in 2007. Bureau of Corrections officials said he was allowed living out privilege because he is past 70. Now the privilege has been cancelled, Leviste faces charges of evasion of sentence, and he could lose any eligibility for a shorter prison term.
The Department of Justice, which has jurisdiction over the Bureau of Corrections, is looking into reports that another convicted killer, Rolito Go, has also abused the living out privilege. This abuse can be stopped only if measures are implemented to tighten security within prison reservations and improve monitoring of the activities of living out prisoners.
The country does not have ankle bracelets that are used in the United States to monitor convicts who are allowed to serve their terms outside prison. Instead Philippine prison authorities are supposed to conduct regular checks on the activities of living out prisoners precisely to prevent the abuse of the privilege. If there is such a system at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa, it was not applied in the case of Leviste, a prosperous businessman and Batangas politician.
Leviste was caught only because he is a known personality. Authorities are verifying reports that he had even attended meetings of his civic club in recent months. Corrections officials said about 400 prisoners enjoyed living out privilege. How many others have abused it? If the abuse is to be stopped, those responsible for Leviste’s caper, whether due to incompetence or for personal gain, must be meted appropriate punishment.
Assigning blame
FIRST PERSON By Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) Updated May 21, 2011 12:00 AMComments (3)

Edwin Lacierda should really consider moonlighting as spokesman for Bureau of Corrections chief Ernesto Diokno.
When Antonio Leviste was found freely roaming the city far away from his jail cell, Diokno was quick to assign blame down the ranks. He summoned his underlings and dressed them down. On a quick tour of radio programs, Diokno loudly professed his adherence to “daang matuwid” — the standard incantation of Aquino loyalists — without specifying the reforms he had actually accomplished in his months on the job.
Diokno let it be known that when summoned by the President, he was not at all taken to task for what is an obvious lapse in the handling of prisoners. By means of exemplary spin management, the Bureau of Corrections director impressed on us all he was exculpated by his boss.
Consistent with the administration’s “strategic messaging”, Diokno likewise blamed the previous president for a policy providing more lenient treatment of prisoners aged 70 and older. It was as if he was saying that if Leviste so casually walked out of jail to see his dentist, the former president is to be blamed.
Until the Leviste affair broke out, Diokno managed to remain well under the radar. No controversy happened when the septuagenarian was appointed to the post, notwithstanding standard civil service practice stipulating mandatory retirement at 70. Diokno is 75. Advanced age should not be an issue if we expect the prisons director to be, to use the term now fashionable, laid back.
After the Leviste affair happened, legislators called on Diokno to resign on the principle of command responsibility. In his radio tour, the former police officer indicated he was not ready to give up his job.
If he is so bent on staying on, Diokno should at least tell us what he plans to do (if any) about our sloppy prisons administration system. The Leviste affair simply confirms what we know: that assassins routinely leave prison to undertake grisly projects with the perfect alibi that they were in jail when new murders happen and crime bosses continue managing their syndicates from their jail cells.
The beleaguered prisons boss so desperately needs Lacierda at this time. The presidential spokesman has shown great creativity in the task of assigning blame away from his principal.

Leviste charged in Makati court

By Edu Punay and Mike Frialde The Philippine Star Updated May 21, 2011 12:00 AM 3 comments to this post

Manila, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed criminal charges against former Batangas governor and convicted killer Jose Antonio Leviste yesterday, two days after he was caught roaming in his building in Makati City in violation of his “living out” privilege.
This developed as DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima named members of a special panel who will conduct a fact-finding investigation to determine possible liability of authorities in the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) – including Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) director Ernesto Diokno – for allowing Leviste to leave the penitentiary without permission.
Diokno has also cancelled the living out privileges of 400 NBP prisoners, ordering them “back to barracks” yesterday. He no longer allowed them to freely roam around the 536-hectare prison reservation.
DOJ finds probable cause
The case against Leviste was filed with the Makati City metropolitan trial court (MTC) after investigating Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Lilian Doris Alejo found probable cause to indict Leviste for evasion of service of sentence, punishable under Article 157 of Revised Penal Code during inquest proceedings held the other day.
Leviste’s driver, Nilo Solis, was also named as an accomplice.
If found guilty, Leviste faces imprisonment of up to six years on top of his sentence of 12 years for the killing of his long-time aide, Rafael de las Alas, inside his office in Makati City in 2007.
In an interview, Alejo told reporters she approved Leviste’s indictment based on evidence submitted along with the complaint filed by arresting agents of National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
She said the 70-year-old convict did not counter the allegation while his lawyer Henry Capella just questioned the proceedings.
The fiscal added that all elements of the crime charged were established when it was proven that Leviste left the premises of NBP without an official permit.
She also dismissed a reported claim of Leviste that he went out of the NBP under the privilege given to him as “living-out” inmate: “When you are living out, it means you are allowed to leave out of the maximum or medium compound, but you cannot go out of the NBP premises.”
Makati MTC chief clerk of court Dante Gumpal said he received a copy of the DOJ’s complaint at around 1:30 p.m. He said the case will be raffled off on Monday.
The DOJ recommended Leviste’s bail set at P12,000 and the bail for Solis at P6,000.
Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon said although bail was recommended, it is unlikely that the Makati court will allow Leviste to post bail as he is serving a sentence for homicide.
Fadullon said the court may allow Solis to post bail.
Clampdown
Diokno said stricter measures against jail guards will also be enforced. “The tightening of measures should not be on the inmates but the jail guards who are not sincere. They must immediately squeal any wrongdoing in the NBP,” he said.
He said he does not know “when privileges will be restored. That will depend on the recommendation of (NBP’s) superintendent.”
Diokno said he will also recommend the filing of administrative charges against five NBP personnel for their allegedly lapses. He identified three of them as Leviste’s custodial guard, Fortunato Justo; Minimum Security Camp chief Superintendent Roberto Rabo; and perimeter guard Superintendent Dante Cruz.
He said he will also reshuffle the jail guards assigned to watch the NBP gates.
Probe panel members named
Meanwhile, De Lima formally created a five-man panel to investigate Leviste’s “prison break” and determine who else could be held liable.
She named Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Dacanay as panel chair, with Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Ma. Emilia Victorio, NBI deputy director for intelligence services Ruel Lasala and State Counsels Wilberto Tolito and Charlene Mae Tapic as members.
The investigation “shall include the determination of whether the caper of Leviste was not the first time,” De Lima said.
The panel will hold hearings from Monday to Wednesday next week, May 23-25, 2011.
Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, who is in-charge of the BuCor, said the DOJ panel will kick off the probe with an ocular inspection at 8 a.m. today.
“They will inspect the minimum security compound of Bilibid and also interview employees and guards. They decided to start the investigation earlier because the three-day period might be not enough,” he told reporters.
De Lima also created a separate panel to review the living out rule, which is based on a memorandum by the previous administration.
DILG warns vs special treatment of inmates
Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo warned jail wardens of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) against giving inmates special treatment or face dismissal from the service.
He reiterated the warning amid the controversy generated by convicted killer Jose Antonio Leviste’s arrest.
“Long before the Leviste incident, we have standing orders to BJMP director Rosendo Dial to ensure that no inmate be given special treatment,” he told The STAR.
Robredo said he has instructed Dial and all jail wardens to conduct unannounced inspections. – With Aie Balagtas See, Cecille Suerte Felipe

Cancer-stricken Rolito Go admits doing a Leviste
By Aie Balagtas See and Non Alquitran The Philippine Star Updated May 21, 2011 12:00 AM 5 comments to this post

Manila, Philippines – Convicted murderer Rolito Go said yesterday he can go in and out of prison but clarified that this is due to his medical condition he is suffering from colon cancer.
In a radio interview, Go said that unlike former Batangas governor Jose Antonio Leviste – who was caught outside prison without an official permit – he secures a permit from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to undergo medical checkups. He added that he has just asked New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) officials to allow him to undergo a checkup this Monday.
Rosario Maguan, the mother of Go’s victim, Eldon, said Go reportedly visited his family in Quezon City on several occasions.
She claimed several witnesses told them Go is accompanied by two civilian escorts and fetched by a private car with tinted windows each time he has to go to a Makati hospital for his regular medical checkup.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima earlier told newsmen that an informant told her “that it’s not only Leviste, but also Rolito Go.”
The Maguans learned that NBP officials placed Go in the minimum security camp in March 2008. One of the other living out inmates is former Caluan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was convicted for the rape-slay of a college student and her boyfriend.
Go was sentenced in 1994 to a maximum of 30 years imprisonment for the killing of Eldon, an engineering student, during a traffic altercation in San Juan.
Go has thrice applied for executive clemency since he was brought to the NBP but all were denied by the Bureau of Pardons and Parole (BPP) for lack of merit.
Rosario alleged that her son’s killer has been “out of prison” recently for his regular checkup at a Makati hospital even without a certification from the Department of Health and approval from the Malacañang Clinic director, which are required under the amended guidelines of the BPP.
She accused Go of enjoying living out privileges because he gave loans to jail guards.
Rosario said a source told her that Go, instead of going to the hospital, would proceed to his house and construction firm office in Quezon City, then return to the NBP late at night to avoid recognition by law enforcers.
She called on the DOJ to file administrative and criminal charges not only against Leviste’s jail guards but also against those assigned to Go.

DOJ EXEC
Trust Aquino on prisons chief case
President will act right on BuCor case, says De Lima
By Marlon Ramos, Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
12:19 am | Sunday, May 22nd, 2011
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MANILA, Philippines—Justice Secretary Leila de Lima yesterday said she was convinced that President Benigno Aquino III would act correctly on the fate of his friend, Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director Ernesto Diokno, and asked that his action not be preempted.
“I’m sure he will do the right thing at the proper time,” De Lima said in a text message, referring to calls for severe sanctions on Diokno in the wake of the arrest of former Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste, a homicide convict serving a 6-12-year sentence, for making an unauthorized trip out of the New Bilibid Prison.
She said she trusted the President to act on the report of the fact-finding committee she had formed to investigate Leviste’s “caper.”
“First things first. Let’s wait for the results of the fact-finding team,” De Lima said. “Let’s not preempt, second-guess or speculate on what the President will do relative to Director Diokno.”
A former police officer, Diokno is said to be close to Mr. Aquino.
The tough-talking justice secretary had earlier said that if she had her way, she would order Diokno’s immediate suspension because he had admitted knowing of Leviste’s purported unauthorized trips.
But while the BuCor is under the administrative supervision of the justice department, only the Office of the President has the authority to discipline Diokno because he is a presidential appointee, she had said.
“But I can recommend to the President what to do on the basis of the results of the fact-finding investigation,” De Lima said yesterday.
She added: “Ultimately, as the appointing [authority, the President has] disciplinary authority. But the President needs to await the results of the fact-finding panel and our recommendations.”
In the coming days
Malacañang said Mr. Aquino’s decision on Diokno’s fate would be known shortly.
“We expect in the coming days the recommendation and the decision of President Aquino on the findings of the panel formed by Secretary De Lima,” Abigail Valte, Mr. Aquino’s deputy spokesperson, said over government radio dzRB.
“As Secretary De Lima said, there is a process that we have to undergo before a decision is made on the liability and culpability of Director Diokno regarding the incident of … Leviste leaving Bilibid without permission,” she said.
Valte did not indicate what the President would decide. “We can’t say at this point because the investigation has yet to be finished,” she said, also pointing out that De Lima would base her formal recommendation on the findings of the panel.
Observers have raised a similarity between the case at hand and the August 23 hostage crisis that resulted in the death of a number of Hong Kong tourists and embarrassed the Philippines before the world.
Mr. Aquino directed De Lima to chair an incident investigation and review committee to determine those responsible for the failure to rescue all the hostages.
But the committee’s findings were still subjected to a review by Malacañang, and some of the recommendations for sanctions were changed.
House inquiry set
At the House of Representatives, the committee on justice announced that it would investigate “motu proprio” (on its own) the alleged abuse of “living out” privileges by Leviste and other wealthy convicts at the NBP.
Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr., the committee chair, said the hearing would start on May 25. Thus, the scheduled hearing and voting on the substance of the impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo for betrayal of public trust will be postponed to May 31.
Tupas told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that he had decided to give priority to the investigation of Leviste’s unauthorized trips outside the NBP because he found the matter alarming.
“An inmate illegally going out of a detention facility on several occasions makes a mockery of our justice [system]. It is incumbent upon the committee to investigate this in order to establish command responsibility. I believe that BuCor Director Diokno should be made accountable,” the lawmaker said.
“The [Leviste] incident is central to the justice system and should not be tolerated. I heard [on TV] when [Diokno] said that he cannot guard all those 32,000 or so inmates. He should be fired,” Tupas said.
‘Fatal’ remarks
Bayan Muna Representative Neri Javier Colmenares agreed with Tupas that Diokno should be sacked, citing at least two statements to the media which he deemed “fatal.”
Colmenares said the first was Diokno’s admission that he knew of Leviste’s unauthorized trips and even cautioned the ex-governor on these, and the other was his remark that it was “just a small matter.”
Corruption
“Leviste is not the main issue here. The burden is on Diokno. He should be fired for saying those things. I think the issue here is not even command responsibility. There is no such thing as living out of the prison without permission. Definitely, there is corruption here,” the party-list lawmaker said.
Colmenares recalled that when he was imprisoned for subversion from 1979 to 1980 and from 1983 to 1986, inmates were allowed to leave prison only for medical examination. The case against him was later dismissed by the court, he said.
He said the planned legislative inquiry should focus on remedial legislation aimed at reviewing and reforming the penal framework on the Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners, which had not been updated since the 1960s.
Colmenares said the review should be based on the philosophy of rehabilitation.
“It should not be treated as punitive because to me, it’s a social thing. But definitely, we have to review this ‘living-out’ system because it seems only the rich can afford it. What about the poor [inmates]? We should regulate this practice,” he said. With a report from Cynthia D. Balana

DOJ team discover more ‘special’ privilege of Leviste
(philstar.com) Updated May 21, 2011 01:24 PM Comments (1)

MANILA, Philippines – Former Batangas governor Antonio Leviste, a homicide convict who was enjoying “living out” privileges, handpicked the inmates who should be included in his tree planting project inside the National Bilibid Prisons compound in Muntinlupa City.
This, according to Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan, was one of the significant discoveries of the Department of Justice’s fact-finding body, which he heads, when they conducted an inspection inside the prison compound on Saturday.
Baraan said the handpicked inmates were staying with Leviste in his “living out” compound inside the NBP.
“May mga kasama siya na inmates sa loob ng kanyang ‘slip out’ compound. Siya mismo pala ang pumili sa mga iyon. Parang mayroon siyang special authority kung sino ang mga inmate na magiging kasama niya,” Baraan said in an interview with ABS-CBN News.
The justice official said that another disturbing discovery his team made during the inspection visit was that guards assigned in three gates of the prison compound do not log the plate numbers of the vehicles that slip out and enter the NBP.
“We discovered na ang mga dumadaan at lumalabas na sasakayan, the plate numbers are not listed. No record of vehicles getting in and out of the compound,” Baraan said, adding that this was the reason why officials are not aware of how many times Leviste exits and enters the prison compound.
Baraan’s team also saw the special nipa hut and a pond in Leviste’s “living out” compound, which he said was a clear evidence that inmates are not equally treated inside the prison compound.
“Ang lumalabas talaga sa situation ni Leviste ay mayroon talaga ditong unequal treatment of the inamtes. Bakit siya magkakaroon ng ganung privilege, ang iba wala,” he said.
He also scored the fact that Leviste was given the “livingn out” privilege because he could afford to finance a tree planting project, which involves the planting of one million trees inside the prison compound.
Baraan said that he would include in his recommendations to Secretary Leila de Lima to revise the rules for providing “living out” privileges to inmates.
He said that age and wealth should not be included in the requirements for getting living out privileges.
He said inmates serving less than a year of their sentence should be the only ones allowed to stay at the minimum security compound and given living out privileges.
“In the case of Leviste, he was given this privilege because of his age, pero mahaba pa ang sentensya niya,” Baraan said.
Ernesto Diokno, chief of the Bureau of Corrections, has ordered the transfer of Leviste to a maximum security detention facility. He has also ordered the relief of 10 prison guards.
Diokno, who is being asked to resign because of Leviste’s case, has insisted that he should not be blamed for Leviste’s case.
He said that Leviste has been enjoying living out privileges even before he was appointed to the post.
Baraan, for his part, said that Diokno and other prison officials “tolerated” the situation because they thought “there was nothing wrong, nothing illegal in that kind of arrangement.”

DOJ finds Leviste NBP hut ‘amazing’
By Sandy Araneta and Aie Balagtas See The Philippine Star Updated May 22, 2011 12:00 AM 0 comment to this post

Manila, Philippines – Former Batangas governor Jose Antonio Leviste’s living arrangements at the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) are “amazing,” according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) official who was part of a team that conducted an ocular inspection at the prison reservation yesterday.
Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III said Leviste’s “kubol” or hut in the minimum security camp stands in a lagoon, with a dirty boat under it. Officials described the hut as similar to those in resorts. The homicide convict also has a satellite office near his hut.
Unlike the cramped cells of common convicts in the minimum security camp, Leviste’s hut is spacious, with a balcony and well-maintained bathroom, he said.
Baraan noted that the hut has no perimeter fence around it and Leviste could have easily escaped on foot. He also noted that informal settlers who were relocated near the reservation walk in and out of the camp.
“Aside from living out privileges, Leviste also had sleep out privileges,” Baraan said. “He could sleep inside his hut.”
Baraan was accompanied by the DOJ’s five-man probe panel, headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Dacanay; National Bureau of Investigation agents, and NBP officials in going around the reservation. They checked the minimum security camp, where living out inmates are housed; the maximum security compound; and entry and exit points of these areas.
“We want to look at the actual condition (of the place) where Leviste came from before he escaped. (This is) to determine how easy and how hard it is for an inmate to get out of the prison compound,” Baraan said. Each NBP gate must have at least two to three jail guards, said Assistant Director Teodora Diaz.
Baraan said Leviste’s hut is far from the main gate of the NBP compound and he would have to pass through several guards before he can go out of the compound.
“Leviste’s car was also seen going in and out of the compound right up to the hut. And the car also was able to go out with Leviste in spite of the guards,” he said.
Baraan has yet to talk to Leviste as of yesterday afternoon. The convict was transferred to the NBP’s maximum security compound after he was caught in his own building in Makati City Wednesday afternoon.
Guards inept or conniving
Baraan said living out prisoners – who can freely roam the prison reservation – can easily escape on foot because security measures are lacking. In Leviste’s case, he was in a vehicle when he fled the prison compound Wednesday.
“Either there is gross negligence, total ineptitude, or there is connivance on the part of our security guards. If it’s the latter one, were they acting alone?” Baraan said.
Baraan pointed out that based on what he saw during the ocular, Leviste would not be able to escape “if the guards stationed at the gates did their jobs.”
When he asked NBP superintendent Ramon Reyes why informal settlers are allowed to go into the camp, Reyes said they cannot do anything because they do not have money to put up fences. He added that the informal settlers, who were relocated two years ago, have posed a great security risk to the NBP. “But what can we do? It is the government that placed them there,” Reyes said.
Reyes added that the NBP could not move pending the resolution of a proposal to transfer the penitentiary to Rizal province.
Diaz and Reyes admitted that several of their inmates, especially those with living out status, have fled the area and never came back. Just last year, the NBP recorded 15 escapees, said Diaz. Some of them have been recaptured and were charged with evasion of service – the same case that Leviste is facing now before the Makati prosecutor’s office.
The NBP tries to counter the lack of security measures by conducting head counts thrice a day.
Because of Leviste’s deed, the NBP had to suspend all the living out status of 400 inmates. Bureau of Corrections director Ernesto Diokno earlier said he does not know when it will be restored.
Leviste, 71, was convicted for homicide in 2009 for killing his aide Rafael delas Alas in 2007. He was sentenced to suffer six to 12 years in prison. But two years into his conviction, Leviste was already enjoying a living out status, which is usually given to the handicapped, inmates almost at the end of their prison terms, or those 65 years old and above.
Baraan said he wants Leviste’s privilege to be reviewed, if not cancelled, saying the former governor must not yet be entitled to such privilege. “The only qualification he has is his age but he still has a long way to go before he completes his sentence,” he said.
According to Baraan, he will recommend that the living out status must only be granted to those people who only have six months left to serve.

DoJ exec ‘discovers’ Bilibid’s open secret: Rich are VIPs
By Marlon Ramos, Penelope Endozo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
12:52 am | Sunday, May 22nd, 2011
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MANILA, Philippines—The “open secret” is unraveling at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.
Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, head of the fact-finding panel looking into the “prison break” of former Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste, yesterday expressed dismay over the “inhuman conditions” of the poor and the “comfortable” kubol (quarters) of the rich in the state penitentiary.
“Money and political influence are still being used to be in a better situation than the others,” Baraan told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “Drastic changes should be [made] there.”
Baraan, who led the panel formed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in an inspection of the NBP to “determine whether the caper of Mr. Leviste was not the first time,” also listed “disturbing” lapses in the security arrangements.
He noted the possibility of connivance between inmates and guards, the too-few guards at the perimeter, and the lack of equipment that could explain how Leviste was able to leave the 536-hectare compound without a permit on May 18.
“There are weak points in the security measures of Bilibid,” Baraan said. “The privileges given to Leviste are evidence of the great divide between the rich and poor inmates.”
No CCTV cameras
The panel inspected the gates leading to the NBP where, Baraan noted, there were no closed-circuit TV cameras or even logbooks to record the vehicles coming in and going out of the compound.
He said the three gates might not be sufficiently monitored by the guards.
“Ex-Governor Leviste used his vehicle to get out of the prison compound … The question is: How was [Leviste] able to get out despite the fact that the three gates have guards?” Baraan said.
Ramon Reyes, the NBP’s chief superintendent, denied that his guards had been negligent. He said that given the resources of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), he would describe the security coverage as “moderately strict.”
“We are not easy-going in our security duties,” he said.
When asked why walls could not be built for added security, Reyes said millions of pesos would be wasted because the NBP planned to eventually transfer to Taytay, Rizal.
Teodora Diaz, NBP assistant director for rehabilitation and administration, said the transfer plan was announced through Proclamation No. 1158 issued in 2004 but it never took off.
The proclamation allocates 270 hectares of land in Barangay Cuyambay in Tanay as the new site of the state penitentiary.
In addition to the lack of security fence around the NBP compound, Baraan said the low-cost housing project of the National Housing Authority made it harder for prison guards to check the people going in and out of the state penitentiary.
“Where in the world can you find a state prison where convicts and ordinary people roam around freely? Worse, passenger jeepneys and private vehicles are also allowed to enter the NBP without being checked,” he said.
Complete with appliances
Baraan said that while lowly inmates of the NBP’s maximum-security compound were staying in cramped cells “like sardines,” the wealthy prisoners had built their own quarters complete with appliances such as electric fans and water coolers.
“They even have their own electric meters. They have beds …” he said.
Baraan said most of the quarters inspected by the fact-finding panel were occupied by Chinese nationals convicted of drug charges.
An inmate had earlier told the Inquirer that prisoners who wanted to own a kubol would have to pay as much as P50,000 to NBP officials and gang mayores (leaders).
Baraan said the panel also visited the hut where Leviste was staying prior to his arrest in Makati City on May 18. It is located outside the minimum-security facility and near a tree-planting site that Leviste was sponsoring.
The hut has electrical installations, suggesting the use of appliances, and a well-maintained bathroom with running water connected from a small water tank outside.
“[Leviste] enjoys not only ‘living out’ but also ‘sleeping out’ privileges. He has his own hut. Actually, it looks like a resort house while common prisoners are congested in small cells,” Baraan said.
He said Leviste was granted the “sleeping out” privilege—meaning sleeping outside the minimum-security facility—by then BuCor Director Oscar Calderon.
Back to the usual
Baraan said Rolito Go, who was sentenced to life for killing college student Eldon Maguan in a fit of road rage, had been staying in a similar cottage.
He said that after Leviste’s arrest, BuCor Director Ernesto Diokno suspended the “living-out” status enjoyed by Leviste, Go and over 100 other inmates.
“We were told that Go and the other prisoners were ordered to go back to the maximum- and minimum-security compounds,” he said.
Baraan said five other inmates had also been allowed their own huts by previous prison officials.
“In fairness to Director Diokno, that system was already there before he came in. But just the same, reforms should be put in place, specially in the maximum and minimum prison areas,” Baraan said.
According to Diaz, “living out” inmates may move around the NBP compound starting at 6 a.m. But they should report to their custodians for the head count at 6 p.m. If they fail to do so, they are declared “missing” and will be moved to maximum security when found.
Good character, etc.
Diaz said not all “living out” inmates had the “sleeping out” privilege.
She said that of the 408 inmates in the minimum-security facility who were granted “living out” status, only 109 could “sleep out.”
Diaz said inmates proven to have good character and the financial capacity to build their own shelters could apply for the benefit.
“The assumption here is that they are about to leave the compound. So why should they do anything to jeopardize that shot to freedom by [violating the rules]?” she said.
The “sleeping out” privilege is given to prisoners who are visibly handicapped, at least 65 years old, have a year left to serve or have served more than half of their prison sentence, Diaz said.
Baraan wondered why Leviste, 70, was given this privilege simply because of his age, even when he still had a long time to serve in his homicide sentence.
He said he would recommend to De Lima to revise the rules for granting “living out” privileges.
“Only those who are to be released within a year should be made ‘living out’ inmates. In that way, they can prepare for their eventual reassimilation into mainstream society,” he said.
Baraan also said the BuCor should be more circumspect in granting “living out” privileges to convicts who could finance community projects, like Leviste’s own project to plant a billion trees.
“Projects that require funding obviously discriminate against poor inmates who cannot pursue similar endeavors,” he said, adding:
“Something has to be done immediately to make sure prisoners are treated equally behind the prison walls. Instituting reforms should be a challenge to all of us.”
Monday hearing
Baraan said Leviste had promised to testify at the fact-finding panel’s first hearing on Monday.
The fact-finding panel is composed of Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Dacanay as chair, and National Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director for intelligence services Ruel Lasala and state counsels Wilberto Tolito and Charlene Mae Tapic as members.

DOJ starts probe on prisons chief over homicide convict’s trip out of jail
By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
4:44 am | Monday, May 23rd, 2011
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MANILA, Philippines — A Department of Justice fact-finding body begins its formal investigation on Monday on the possible administrative liabilities of Bureau of Corrections director Ernesto Diokno and other prison officials following the arrest in Makati City of New Bilibid Prisons inmate Jose Antonio Leviste, a homicide convict and former Batangas governor, who managed to leave the state penitentiary unauthorized.
Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, head of the fact-finding panel, told reporters that the investigation has been set to be held at the BuCor office in Muntinlupa City with Leviste, Diokno, the NBP superintendent and other prison officials and guards invited as “resource persons.”
“The invitations are for everyone in the BuCor who may be able to shed light in the incident. [They are required] to appear in the investigation from Monday to Wednesday. Afterwards, we are required to make our report to be submitted to the Secretary. It will be the Secretary who will inform President Aquino of our recommendations,” Baraan said.
Aside from Baraan, the other members of the panel are Senior State Prosecutors Susan Dacanay and Ma. Emilia Victorio; National Bureau of Investigation director for intelligence services Ruel Lasala; and state counsels Wilberto Lolitol and Charlene Mae Tapic.
The undersecretary said the proceedings of the body may be covered by the media to to ensure transparency. The resource persons, if they wanted to, could bring their own lawyers to advise them, he added.
The DOJ official explained that the investigation, being fact-finding in nature, would establish whether there were criminal or administrative liabilities on the part of the public officials in allowing Leviste to go out of the NBP complex unmonitored.
The panel has been instructed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to ascertain whether or not the prison officials and guards were grossly negligent or remiss in their duties or had connived with Leviste to give him VIP treatment.
As for Diokno, a presidential appointee, Baraan said the panel would make the “necessary recommendations” that, if approved by De Lima, would be referred to Aquino for the final decision. He said the DOJ could sanction or dismiss the other BuCor and NBP officials with civil service eligibility, but not Diokno, a political appointee.
“That is not our call. …He’s a presidential appointee, but later on, depending on the outcome of the investigation, we can recommend that (sanctions ) to the President,” he said.
Leviste has been serving a 12-year sentence for the 2007 killing of his business aide Rafael de las Alas. He had been given a “living out” status as inmate, which allows him to go anywhere within the New Bilibid Prisons complex in Muntinlupa but not outside.
He was arrested by NBI agents Wednesday afternoon in front of Makati City’s LPL Tower building, which he owns. He had no guards and could not produce any permit authorizing him to leave the NBP premises.
Leviste was charged two days later for evasion of service of sentence.
On Saturday, the panel inspected the NBP in preparation for their hearings. Baraan and other members toured the minimum security compound where Leviste, a “sleepout” prisoner, was allowed to set up huts. They viewed the other inmates who were given “living-out” status and checked how security was being enforced at the penitentiary.

Phl jailhouse rots
COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) Updated May 23, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (1)

As one of the five pillars of the criminal justice system, penal institutions in the country are rotten to the core, physically and otherwise. That assertion of fact has been proven true once again with the controversial arrest of convicted killer, former Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste while out of his jail at the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa City. Agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested Leviste at his LPL building in Makati last Wednesday.
Leviste is serving a 12-year sentence for killing his aide, Rafael de las Alas, in his office at the same building in 2007.
The Court of Appeals upheld Leviste’s conviction for homicide last year. Aside from many other “perks” he obviously enjoys at the NBP, the 71-year-old Leviste is covered by a “living out” privilege for convicted senior citizens and inmates who are nearing completion of their jail term.
Under prison rules, however, living-out inmates must stay within the 536-hectare NBP reservation camp. Inmates enjoying this privilege could also get out of the NBP premises for medical or other personal reasons with prior clearance from the court and the Department of Justice. But when Leviste casually walked out of the NBP that day, he did not secure such required clearances.
Leviste’s caper exposed to the public anew what has been reportedly taking place inside the maximum security walls of the NBP. Rich and influential convicts are lording it over their supposed jailors. Leviste’s fellow NBP inmates like Rolito Go and ex-Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez have been reportedly enjoying special privileges from their jailors.
Go was sentenced in 1994 to a maximum of 30 years imprisonment for the killing of Eldon Maguan, an engineering student, during a traffic altercation in San Juan. Like Leviste, Go is also enjoying the “living out” privilege. In his case, Go claimed he is using this privilege so he could undergo medical treatment for his colon cancer. Unlike Leviste, though, Go clarified he secures permit from the DOJ to undergo medical check up. In fact, Go disclosed, he has asked NBP officials to allow him to undergo a check up this Monday.
But Rosario Maguan, the mother of Go’s victim, decried that her son’s killer has been reportedly seen visiting his family in Quezon City on several occasions. The Maguans learned that NBP officials placed Go in the minimum security camp in March 2008. Go has thrice applied for executive clemency since he was brought to the NBP. But the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) denied his lawyer’s petition for lack of merit and vehement objections by the Maguan family.
It is to the credit of the Maguan family that Go has remained in prison for keeping vigilant that the ends of justice would not be frustrated. But they could only do so much. Like the rest of us law-abiding citizens, we count on our State authorities running our prison system to keep these criminals spend their time in jail.
Sadly, our country’s penal system obviously has been rotting to the core, not only in terms of physical structures of the jail facilities but also the people running them. In our country, we have a confusing bureaucratic set up of two government agencies in charge of the penal system.
The DOJ, through the Bureau of Corrections, runs the NBP, the Women’s Corrections in Mandaluyong City; and the penal “farms” in Iwahig, Palawan; San Ramon in Zamboanga City; in Sablayan, Mindoro Occidental; Leyte regional prison; and in Panabo, Davao. On the other hand, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), through the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), supervises the city and provincial jails.
Quite recently, the BJMP came under fire also for the alleged special VIP treatment accorded to road rage killer, Jason Ivler who has been detained at the QC jail while undergoing trial for the murder of Renato Ebarle Jr. Ivler was subsequently transferred to the other BJMP-run Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City. Ivler’s holding party inside his cell and other antics while in jail came out in the open when photos of his activities were seen posted in Facebook.
In the case of Leviste, ABS-CBN’s Current Affairs program XXX tipped off authorities that he is able to go in and out of his cell. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima admitted she gave the order to NBI director Magtanggol Gatdula to conduct this operation and try to catch Leviste in flagrante.
As NBP director, retired Police Gen. Ernesto Diokno has a lot of explaining to do in the case of Leviste. Last Saturday, the investigating panel created by the Justice Secretary verified what has been talked about and known to many but nobody has taken action until De Lima stepped into it.
The funny thing was Diokno’s lame excuse why Leviste has been able to pull his stunt supposedly without his knowledge. Diokno’s alibi was that Leviste is engaged in a “billion trees” project where the latter is supposedly planting trees around his “kubol” or hut located inside the NBP reservation. As a “living out” inmate, Leviste could go around freely in the minimum security area and not locked up inside jail.
This only brings to mind the special privileges also enjoyed by celebrated convicts like former Zamboanga Rep. Romeo Jalosjos and convicted killer Claudio Teehankee Jr. while they were still at NBP. Jalosjos and Teehankee even had air-conditioned “kubol” with color TV and refrigerator which came to public knowledge after they were freed from NBP under executive pardon.
Following Leviste’s attempt to evade serving his jail sentence, reports of other shenanigans inside prison walls are now coming out in the open again. Convicted drug dealers continue to ply their illegal trade even while in prison because their visitors could smuggle in to them cellular or mobile phones to conduct their nefarious business. There are also reports of inmates being clandestinely released from jail as hired assassins. But such reports were just being swept under the rugs.
The penal system is supposed to rehabilitate criminals to make them become better and productive members of society, so that once they are released from prison after they fully served their jail term, they would no longer pose threat to the peace and order situation.
But as it is, our penal system is corrupted from the top. The Philippine jailhouse rots!

DIOKNO FATE HINGES ON HIS EXPLANATION, SAYS PRES AQUINO
BY CHRISTINE O. AVENDAÑO, MIKO MORELOS
PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER
3:08 AM | MONDAY, MAY 23RD, 2011
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PRESIDENT AQUINO SAID ON SUNDAY THAT BUREAU OF CORRECTIONS DIRECTOR ERNESTO DIOKNO RISKED LOSING HIS TRUST AND CONFIDENCE, AND COULD FACE SANCTIONS IF THE BUCOR CHIEF FAILED TO FULLY EXPLAIN WHY FORMER BATANGAS GOV. ANTONIO LEVISTE WAS ALLOWED UNAUTHORIZED TRIPS OUTSIDE PRISON DESPITE BEING CONVICTED OF KILLING AN AIDE.
SHORT OF SAYING THAT DIOKNO COULD BE DISMISSED FROM HIS JOB, MR. AQUINO TOLD REPORTERS HE WAS NOT SATISFIED WITH THE INITIAL EXPLANATION GIVEN HIM BY DIOKNO.
“IF HIS ANSWER IS UNSATISFACTORY, THERE IS IN HIS APPOINTMENT A REQUIREMENT OF TRUST AND CONFIDENCE. AND IF THIS TRUST AND CONFIDENCE IS LOST, THERE IS A CORRESPONDING ACTION THERE,” THE PRESIDENT SAID IN FILIPINO.
MR. AQUINO SERVED THE WARNING ON THE EVE OF THE OPENING OF A FORMAL DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE INQUIRY INTO POSSIBLE ADMINISTRATIVE LIABILITIES DIOKNO AND OTHER PRISON OFFICIALS FACE IN THE WAKE OF THE LEVISTE CAPER.
SPEAKING TO REPORTERS AFTER ATTENDING THE GRADUATION EXERCISE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES’ COLLEGE OF MEDICINE AT SMX CONVENTION CENTER IN PASAY CITY, MR. AQUINO SAID HE HOPED THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT WOULD COMPLETE ITS INVESTIGATION BY WEDNESDAY, OR BEFORE HE LEAVES ON FRIDAY FOR A TWO-DAY STATE VISIT TO THAILAND.
HE SAID HE SUMMONED DIOKNO TO A MEETING ON THURSDAY AND ASKED HIM “HOW THIS HAPPENED.”
“HE HAD SOME INITIAL ANSWERS BUT I WAS NOT HAPPY WITH THEM,” THE PRESIDENT SAID.
CHANCE TO EXPLAIN
MR. AQUINO STRESSED THAT THE INVESTIGATION HAD NOT BEEN COMPLETED AND THAT DIOKNO—REPUTEDLY A CLOSE FRIEND OF HIS—WOULD BE “GIVEN A CHANCE TO EXPLAIN.”
THE PRESIDENT SAID HE ASKED DIOKNO HOW IT WAS POSSIBLE FOR LEVISTE TO ENJOY “LIVING-OUT” PRIVILEGES DESPITE BEING CONVICTED OF KILLING HIS FORMER AIDE RAFAEL DE LAS ALAS. LEVISTE WAS CONVICTED OF HOMICIDE IN JANUARY 2009 AND SENTENCED TO A JAIL TERM RANGING FROM SIX TO 12 YEARS.
“NORMALLY, A LIVING-OUT PRIVILEGE IS GIVEN IF THE CONVICT IS IN THE TRANSITION PERIOD—HE IS SET TO RETURN TO SOCIETY BECAUSE HE IS ABOUT TO BE PARDONED OR PAROLED,” THE PRESIDENT SAID.
HE DEFINED “LIVING-OUT” PRIVILEGE AS “NOT BEING IN A CELL BUT WITHIN THE NEW BILIBID PRISON COMPOUND.”
“HOW SHOULD WE THEN THINK THAT THIS PERSON WHO HAD JUST ENTERED JAIL ALREADY HAS THIS KIND OF PRIVILEGE?” MR. AQUINO SAID.
ALWAYS ON THE BALL
MR. AQUINO SAID HE HAD ALSO ORDERED THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT TO LOOK INTO REPORTS THAT THE NEW BILIBID PRISON (NBP) WAS “300 PERCENT OVERCONGESTED” AND THAT BUCOR PERSONNEL WERE NOT GETTING SALARY INCREASES.
“WE NEED A DIRECTOR OF THE BUREAU WHO IS ON THE BALL ALL THE TIME,” HE ADDED.
ASKED TO COMMENT ON CLAIMS THAT HE WAS ABLE TO FIRE FORMER WEATHER BUREAU CHIEF FRISCO NILO IMMEDIATELY LAST YEAR (FOR SUPPOSED ERRONEOUS WEATHER FORECASTING), BUT NOT DIOKNO BECAUSE THE LATTER WAS HIS FRIEND, THE PRESIDENT DENIED NILO WAS SWIFTLY FIRED BUT WAS GIVEN THE CHANCE TO FIX THE FORECASTING SYSTEM.
TOLD THAT THE WEATHER BUREAU WAS STILL SUPPOSEDLY UNABLE TO REPORT STORM DEVELOPMENTS EVERY HOUR, AS IT HAD PROMISED, MR. AQUINO DISAGREED, SAYING HE HAD BEEN ABLE TO GET WEATHER REPORTS ON TIME.
“I THINK I WOULD SUGGEST YOU GO TO THEIR WEBSITE. IF THAT’S THE CASE THAT [REPORTING IS MADE] EVERY SIX HOURS, THEN THERE WILL BE SOME PEOPLE WHO WILL HAVE TO EXPLAIN. AND IF THEY DON’T EXPLAIN PROPERLY THEY WOULD BE REMOVED,” HE SAID.
DIOKNO’S MEMO
DIOKNO CLAIMED IN AN INTERVIEW WITH THE INQUIRER YESTERDAY THAT HE WAS IN THE COURSE OF DISMANTLING THE PRIVILEGE SYSTEM AT THE NATIONAL PENITENTIARY WHEN THE LEVISTE INCIDENT HAPPENED.
“WHEN I CAME INTO OFFICE IN OCTOBER, I MET WITH BUCOR OFFICIALS TO DISCUSS HOW TO PUT AN END TO THE SYSTEM,” HE SAID. “IN FACT, I ISSUED A MEMORANDUM ON DEC. 2 WHERE I DIRECTED ALL PRISON OFFICIALS TO MONITOR THE MOVEMENTS OF PRISONERS WITH LIVING-OUT PRIVILEGES.”
NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION AGENTS ARRESTED LEVISTE AND HIS DRIVER NILO SOLIS ON WEDNESDAY AT A BUILDING LEVISTE OWNS IN MAKATI CITY. LEVISTE CLAIMED HE WAS SUFFERING FROM A TOOTHACHE, WHICH MADE HIM SEEK TREATMENT OUTSIDE THE NBP RESERVATION.
STATE PROSECUTORS HAVE CHARGED LEVISTE WITH EVASION OF SERVICE OF SENTENCE. SOLIS WAS INDICTED AS AN ACCOMPLICE.
DIOKNO SAID HE BELIEVED “CERTAIN PERSONS” WHOSE SHOES HE “MIGHT HAVE STEPPED ON” COULD BE EXPLOITING THE SITUATION. HE DID NOT ELABORATE BUT INDICATED THE FUROR OVER LEVISTE MIGHT HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE REFORMS HE WAS INTRODUCING IN THE NATIONAL PENITENTIARY.
HE REITERATED THE LIVING-OUT PRIVILEGE LEVISTE HAD ENJOYED WAS GIVEN TO HIM BY HIS PREDECESSOR, OSCAR CALDERON.
RESOURCE PERSONS
JUSTICE UNDERSECRETARY FRANCISCO BARAAN III, HEAD OF THE FACT-FINDING PANEL, SAID HE WOULD CONDUCT HIS PROBE AT THE BUCOR OFFICE IN MUNTINLUPA. LEVISTE, DIOKNO, AND OTHER PRISON OFFICIALS AND GUARDS HAVE BEEN INVITED AS “RESOURCE PERSONS.”
THE INVESTIGATION WILL BE CONDUCTED FROM MONDAY TO WEDNESDAY AND THE PANEL’S REPORT WILL BE SUBMITTED TO JUSTICE SECRETARY LEILA DE LIMA, “WHO WILL INFORM PRESIDENT AQUINO OF OUR RECOMMENDATIONS,” BARAAN SAID.
THE OTHER PANEL MEMBERS ARE SENIOR STATE PROSECUTORS SUSAN DACANAY AND MA. EMILIA VICTORIO, NBI DIRECTOR FOR INTELLIGENCE SERVICES RUEL LASALA, AND GOVERNMENT LAWYERS WILBERTO LOLITOL AND CHARLENE MAE TAPIC.
THE PANEL HAS BEEN ORDERED TO FIND OUT, AMONG OTHERS, WHETHER PRISON OFFICIALS AND GUARDS WERE GROSSLY NEGLIGENT IN THEIR DUTIES OR HAD CONNIVED WITH LEVISTE TO GIVE HIM VIP TREATMENT.
BARAAN SAID THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT COULD SANCTION OR DISMISS OTHER BUCOR AND NBP OFFICIALS WHO ARE CIVIL SERVANTS BUT NOT DIOKNO.
“THAT IS NOT OUR CALL,” BARAAN SAID. “HE IS A PRESIDENTIAL APPOINTEE. LATER ON, DEPENDING ON THE OUTCOME OF THE INVESTIGATION, WE CAN RECOMMEND (SANCTIONS) TO THE PRESIDENT.” WITH A REPORT FROM JEROME ANING

Leviste’s tell-all tale awaited at Justice dept.

FORMER Gov. Jose Antonio Leviste of Batangas was expected to deliver on his promise that he would reveal today so-called open secrets of the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP), the national penitentiary located in Muntinlipa City, south of Manila.
Department of Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan 3rd over the weekend said that Leviste, 71, had been summoned to appear before a panel composed of DoJ prosecutors and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) officials.
“Former Gov. Leviste said that he is willing to testify and to tell all. We will know exactly the facts leading to his caper. Then we will expand the probe on what reforms we could implement to improve the prison system,” Baraan said during a radio interview.
Aside from Leviste, the panel will also grill Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director Ernesto Diokno who, despite having been informed of excessive privileges given to so-called “VIP” inmates, failed to stop allegedly questionable practices or special treatment being accorded to them.
Meanwhile, President Benigno Aquino3rd also over the weekend said that he would decide on the fate of Diokno after the DOJ concludes its investigation of alleged irregularities in the NBP.
“Merong imbestigasyon na dapat tapusin at bibigyan ko siya ng pagkakataon na sagutin at pag hindi maayos ang kanyang kasagutan, e may trust and confidence hong parte iyong kanyang appointment diyan [There is an investigation that should first be concluded and I will give him the opportunity to answer and if his answer is not satisfactory, the trust and confidence attached to his appointment (will be eroded)],” he added during a chance interview.
The President isummoned Diokno to Malacañang on Thursday on reports that Leviste was able to leave the NBP without an appropriate permit.
The DOJ hearing will take place at the BuCor building, a part of the NBP compound.
NBI agents arrested Leviste on May 18 after learning that he left the compound without proper permit from authorities.
Because of the incident, the Justice department filed charges of evasion of service of sentence against Leviste.
“Money and political influence are still being used to be in a better situation than the others,” Baraan said after the preliminary tour of the panel at NBP on Friday.
Leviste was convicted by the Makati Regional Trial Court of the crime of homicide and was sentenced to reclusion temporal or six years to 12 years of imprisonment.
He was accused of gunning down his long-time business aide Rafael de las Alas in January JAIME PILAPIL AND CRIS G. ODRONIA

Leviste: Spare jail personnel from sanctions
By Dennis Carcamo Home Updated May 23, 2011 12:09 PM 14 comments to this post

MANILA, Philippines – Former Batangas governor Jose Antonio Leviste said no jail personnel were accountable when he went out from the National Bilibid Prison compound last week.
Leviste said that his “short breakout” was a personal decision, while asking the investigating panel of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to spare the jail personnel from sanctions in relation to the incident.
At the start of the hearing at the NBP today, Leviste cited that the personnel on duty were not accountable for his actions, saying, “Walang pananagutan ang sinuman na sinasakdal nyo ngayon.”
“The matter happened because of the situation… because of the system. Wala pong may kinalaman sa aking paglabas kundi sarili ko,” the former governor added.
Leviste also maintained his innocence and insisted that he earned his living out status during the previous Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) administration.
“I have earned my living out status in the previous administration in consideration for my good conduct and my age, then 70, now 71,” he added.
He said the privilege was granted to him due to his support for the billion trees program of the government inside the NBP reservation.
“Ako’y bitayin nyo na pero wag nyong kakalimutan ang billion trees program,” said Leviste, who has been charged with evasion of service before a Makati court for leaving the NBP compound.
Asked why he left the NBP compound without asking permission from authorities, he merely told the panel that he could no longer sustained from the “excruciating” pain caused by his aching tooth.
He said he stopped by the NBP administration office but no one was there to give him authority to have his tooth checked outside the jail premises.
“Nagdaan po ako doon sa administration office…may nakausap akong mga sekretari, pero yung mga tao na makakapagbigay ng authority ay wala …Hindi ko na matiis ang sakit ng ipin ko,” he said, adding it did not occur to him that the incident would be a big deal.
Leviste told the DOJ investigating panel that he did not attempt to have his tooth checked by the medical facility inside the NBP because of the lack of equipment.
He meanwhile asked an apology for his action, saying, “Ipagpatawad po nyo ako ko kung aking inabuso, pero sa isip ko hindi ko inabuso. I was entitled to do it…it just came it to my mind.”
He insisted that he has no intention of escaping when he left the NBP compound.

(Update) Bucor chief takes leave of absence
By Aie Balagtas-See Home Updated May 23, 2011 10:21 AM 10 comments to this post

MANILA, Philippines – The director of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) has taken his leave of absence as the probe on the alleged special treatment to former Batangas governor Jose Antonio Leviste started today.
Bucor director Ernesto Diokno handed his letter to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima this morning, according to Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III.
Baraan said Diokno will be replace by BuCor assistant director Teodora Diaz, pending the result of the investigation.
Diokno said he went on leave to give the fact-finding body a “free hand” in the investigation while assuring that he will attend and cooperate on the ongoing probe.
For his part, New Bilibid Prison superintendent Ramon Reyes said at least 10 jail officers and officials will attend today’s hearing.
The probe stemmed from the incident where Leviste managed to get out of the NBP compound to have his toothache checked in Makati City.
During the hearing at the NBP today, Leviste admitted that he “did wrong” in going Makati City without the permission of his jail officer. The beleaguered governor also said that he was subjected to isolation after the incident.
He pointed out his “short breakout” was a personal decision and no jail officers were responsible for the incident. He added that he is ready to “suffer the consequences of his actions.”
He pointed out that he came out through the main entrance of the NBP. (With JP)

Diokno goes on leave
Leviste clears prison officials of blame
By Christine O. Avendaño, Marlon Ramos, Miko Morelos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
12:56 am | Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
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MANILA, Philippines—Embattled Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director Ernesto Diokno on Monday took a leave of absence from his post, pushing aside calls for him to resign outright and save President Benigno Aquino III from further political embarrassment.
Diokno, reputed to be a close friend of the President, went on leave even as a Department of Justice (DoJ) panel opened a formal inquiry into how convicted killer and former Batangas Gov. Jose Antonio Leviste was able to leave prison for a supposed medical checkup without official authorization.
Testifying before the panel, Leviste claimed he was under the “illusion” that he had already become part of the official BuCor family for the tree-planting program he had launched as an inmate and therefore could leave prison premises without authority.
“I made a mistake,” Leviste told the panel headed by Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III.
He also seemed to take pains in trying to absolve prison officials of responsibility for what he did.
Malacañang welcomed the move taken by Diokno, but the President told reporters that it seemed clear that Leviste was able to temporarily leave the state penitentiary in Muntinlupa City because someone was sleeping on the job.
Mr. Aquino indicated that he was determined to get to the bottom of the highly publicized caper of a former politician serving a 6-12-year jail term for shooting to death a former political aide four years ago.
“Obviously, someone did not do his job,” Mr. Aquino said. “The question is, who and how many of them needed to [be] set right? Can they still be reformed or is it necessary for them to be relieved?”
He added: “I’m hoping the DoJ in its report will be as comprehensive as possible and will give me all the factual basis as to the rules and regulations (governing prisoners supposedly with living-out privileges).”
Why not resign?
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Monday said she had asked Diokno to resign to insulate Mr. Aquino from any political backlash as a result of Leviste’s “prison break” on May 18.
De Lima said she candidly asked Diokno during their one-on-one meeting at the DoJ offices if he was considering quitting his post.
“I was thinking of the President … to shield him from further controversy because this is becoming an issue to further malign and cast the President in a bad light,” she told reporters.
“For the sake of the President, perhaps Director Diokno would consider resigning,” she added.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile also said Diokno should resign.
“If I were to make a decision he has to go,” Enrile told reporters. “This is not about command responsibility. It’s a question of who is responsible for the bureau … He cannot pass the buck to anybody.”
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said: “Leviste personifies a rotten system. It just so happened that he was the one caught but I think there were many of them (prisoners) who had been doing that in the past.”
Not ruled out
Wearing a white polo barong, Diokno—reportedly a former shooting buddy of the President—looked relaxed and refused to answer media questions as he emerged from his 30-minute meeting with De Lima.
Although Diokno refused to quit his post immediately, De Lima said Diokno was “not ruling out” such a possibility.
“He said he might consider it. But for now, he said he would stand by his position. He said he is willing, ready and will be able to prove that he was not amiss (in his duties),” De Lima said.
She downplayed calls for her to recommend Diokno’s preventive suspension, saying that would be “premature” since it would still depend on the findings of the DoJ investigating panel.
In his letter to De Lima, Diokno guaranteed De Lima his full cooperation in the probe. He said he decided to go on leave “to give a free hand to the … fact-finding body to determine the extent of liability among BuCor officers in connection” with the Leviste incident.
“This way, people will not think that I am influencing the outcome of the investigation. Whoever is liable must be made answerable,” he said in his letter dated May 21, which was received by De Lima’s office on Monday.
Others involved
He recommended that Assistant BuCor Director Teodora Diaz temporarily take his place.
Diokno said he was saddened that the incident occurred “in the midst of all my efforts in instituting genuine reforms in prison.”
Since other BuCor officials may also be included in the investigation, De Lima said she might designate Undersecretary Baraan as officer in charge of the prisons agency.
At Monday’s inquiry chaired by Senior State Prosecutor Susan Dacanay, Leviste basically admitted sneaking out of his confinement to have a toothache checked and that his act was his own doing. No one else was behind it, he insisted.
His apparent defense of BuCor—including its policies and procedures, which are now under scrutiny by no less than the President—prompted one panelist to ask if Leviste was trying to protect anyone in the bureau.
Leviste replied in the negative, and again reiterated that his slipping out of prison was his own doing. If other people would be sanctioned for what he did, the former governor said it would be a “great injustice” to them.
His trees
Throughout the panel questioning, Leviste repeatedly mentioned his “billion trees” project which, he said, helped him “earn” the living-out status, usually accorded to inmates about to complete their prison sentences.
He could barely recall how he obtained the status, except to say that he wrote to the previous BuCor administration, which granted his request.
“I did not ask for any privilege. I earned it,” Leviste said, reiterating the progress that he had made with his tree-planting project.
Later, when the panelists could not find any provision for living-out status in the BuCor operating manual, prison officials admitted the privilege was a kind of an “internal arrangement” in the bureau.
Unanswered questions
Investigators also learned that a living-out privilege was granted by prison superintendents alone, which Baraan noted could be abused.
At the proceedings, Leviste wore an orange prison shirt, the color assigned to inmates at the maximum security compound.
Before his escapade, Leviste had been kept in the minimum security camp, based on his prison sentence.
The former governor declined to answer some questions, like how many times did he leave the compound and if he had been previously warned by Diokno.
“I will answer in due time,” Leviste replied.
Leviste said he still had a case in court on evading his prison sentence and he could only answer those questions after he had given his testimony.
BuCor officials grilled in the afternoon were Assistant Director Teodora Diaz, NBP Supt. Ramon Reyes and former Bilibid Supt. Armando Miranda.
The three said that from what they knew this was the first time Leviste slipped out of prison unauthorized.
Asked what route he took in leaving the prison compound, Leviste gave the impression that he all but waltzed out of the NBP reservation, exiting through the main gate.
His vehicle wasn’t stopped to be checked by sentries although prison guards were at an outpost to keep watch, Leviste recalled.
He also went on a tirade against flaws he said he found in the prison system, particularly allowing civilians within the 500-ha reservation.
People who lived in government housing areas within the reservation came and went without being checked by guards, he said.
‘Better performance’
“We certainly welcome his (Diokno) decision to take a leave of absence,” said the President’s spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda.
Aside from finding out what happened in Leviste’s case, Lacierda said the President also wanted to see “an improvement in the conduct and performance of BuCor officials.” With reports from TJ Burgonio and Cynthia D. Balana

Enrile joins fellow senators in calling for resignation of prisons chief Diokno
By Maila Ager
INQUIRER.net
6:27 pm | Monday, May 23rd, 2011
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MANILA, Philippines—Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile has joined calls for the resignation of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief for allegedly allowing former Batangas Governor Jose Antonio Leviste to leave his prison cell in Muntinlupa City.
“I think if I were to make a decision , he has to go,” Enrile told reporters on Monday when asked to react on BuCor director Ernesto Diokno’s decision to take a leave of absence while the Department of Justice (DoJ) is investigating the incident.
“When I was Secretary of Justice and there was a riot in Muntinlupa, I immediately relieved the head of the Bureau of Corrections,” said the Senate leader.
Enrile said there was no need to investigate the matter since it was very clear that Leviste, who was convicted for killing his aide four years ago, managed to slip out of the New Bilibid Prison.
“What is to be investigated? It’s very clear that the guy went out on his own,” he said.
“(It’s) not (because of) command responsibility. It’s a question of who is responsible for the bureau. Something happened. He cannot pass the buck on anybody and I’m sure that’s been going on,” he added.
Earlier, Senate Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada and Sen. Sergio Osmeña III called for the resignation of Diokno.
Meanwhile, with the DoJ and the House of Representatives holding separate investigations on the incident, Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, chairman of the Senate justice committee, said his committee was no longer keen on conducting its own inquiry on the issue unless a member of the chamber calls for it.
So long as the concerned agencies were doing their jobs in investigating, Escudero said he saw no reason why the Senate should intervene.
“Kung iniimbestigahan at ginagawa ng mga ahensiya ng gobyerno ang kanilang trabaho, at wala namang reklamo sa imbestigasyon at sapat naman, hindi na dapat ito pasukan at pakialaman ng mga senador (If the concerned government agencies are doing their job of investigating and there are no complaints about the fairness of the investigations, the senators should no longer meddle),” Escudero said.

Prisons chief Diokno not ruling out resignation as option—De Lima
By Tetch Torres
INQUIRER.net
4:36 pm | Monday, May 23rd, 2011
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MANILA, Philippines—Beleaguered Bureau of Corrections chief Ernesto Diokno is not ruling out resignation but for now, he says he is determined to prove that he is innocent of allegations that he had allowed the special treatment of favored prisoners inside the national penitentiary.
Diokno had a closed-door meeting with Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to whom he presented pertinent documents including memorandums showing the reforms he had initiated inside the National Penitentiary since he assumed office last year.
“He is not foreclosing the idea of a resignation. But right now, he told me that he will prove that has not been remiss of his work and he initiated reforms inside the NBP [New Bilibid Prison],” De Lima said.
“He wants to prove that command responsibility should not reach him,” De Lima added.
Diokno will be on leave of absence starting May 23 while the investigation on the special treatment of some prisoners inside the national penitentiary is ongoing.
“I appreciate his move,” De Lima said, noting that Diokno took a leave of absence even if she said it is still premature to decide on whether to put Diokno on preventive suspension or not is.
Taking over Diokno’s position in an acting capacity is Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan.
De Lima said she could not designate anyone from the NBP “because technically, they are all under investigation.”

Prisons chief Diokno takes leave as probe into Leviste caper starts
By Marlon Ramos, Miko Morelos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
11:24 am | Monday, May 23rd, 2011
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Bureau of Corrections director Ernesto Diokno (left) chose to take a leave of absence as the DoJ started its probe on how former Batangas governor Jose Antonio Leviste (right) managed to slip out of the national penitentiary. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 3) Bureau of Corrections director Ernesto Diokno has taken a leave of absence as the inquiry into how former Batangas governor Jose Antonio Leviste managed to slip out of the national penitentiary starts this Monday.
Garbed in an orange standard issue prison shirt, Leviste entered the Department of Justice conference room where a DoJ panel, led by Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, would hear accounts of prison guards and corrections officials.
Leviste is being held at the maximum security compound.
Baraan said the three-day inquiry was also part of the “due process” accorded to Diokno who has been accused of negligence by allowing Leviste, convicted of killing his longtime aide four years ago, to leave the New Bilibid Prison reservation in Muntinlupa City last week.
Leviste is expected to testify into what Baraan described as the former governor’s “caper.”
“We want the truth from him. We want everything,” Baraan told reporters. “In my initial talk with [Leviste], he’s willing to tell all.”
The official described Leviste’s willingness to speak “a good start for the investigation.”
He added that Diokno and other prison officials were also expected to testify.
The hearings will enable the panel “to get to the facts” on what led to Leviste leaving the Bilibid reservation for Makati City where agents of the National Bureau of Investigation rearrested the former governor.
“We want to determine what really happened, who [were] involved, had there been a connivance, was there a breakdown in the system,” Baraan explained.
“That’s what we want to know so we can give a comprehensive account to the President.”
Meanwhile, Diokno has taken a leave of absence amid investigation into the “prison break” of Leviste, according to Baraan.
“He [Diokno] said he wants the DoJ to have a free hand in its investigation of the Leviste incident,” Baraan told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“He also said that he will respect the DoJ and Malacanang’s determination of his culpability,” he added.
“Diokno is on leave of absence effective today until the investigation is finished,” the undersecretary said, quoting Diokno’s letter to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
Baraan said the letter was sent to De Lima Monday morning.
The official maintained that Diokno would still participate in the investigation.
Baraan said he did not know who would be appointed officer-in-charge in while Diokno was on leave.
While the Bureau of Corrections is an attached agency of the Department of Justice, its director is a presidential appointee, meaning only the President can implement disciplinary sanctions.
Diokno, a former police general, is reportedly close to President Benigno Aquino III.
Aquino distanced himself from Diokno on Sunday, expressing dissatisfaction in the official’s initial explanation.
Hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday will be held at the justice department headquarters in Manila, according to Baraan.
Originally posted at 09:47 am | Monday, May 23, 2011

DOJ starts probe on prisons chief over homicide convict’s trip out of jail
By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
4:44 am | Monday, May 23rd, 2011
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MANILA, Philippines — A Department of Justice fact-finding body begins its formal investigation on Monday on the possible administrative liabilities of Bureau of Corrections director Ernesto Diokno and other prison officials following the arrest in Makati City of New Bilibid Prisons inmate Jose Antonio Leviste, a homicide convict and former Batangas governor, who managed to leave the state penitentiary unauthorized.
Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, head of the fact-finding panel, told reporters that the investigation has been set to be held at the BuCor office in Muntinlupa City with Leviste, Diokno, the NBP superintendent and other prison officials and guards invited as “resource persons.”
“The invitations are for everyone in the BuCor who may be able to shed light in the incident. [They are required] to appear in the investigation from Monday to Wednesday. Afterwards, we are required to make our report to be submitted to the Secretary. It will be the Secretary who will inform President Aquino of our recommendations,” Baraan said.
Aside from Baraan, the other members of the panel are Senior State Prosecutors Susan Dacanay and Ma. Emilia Victorio; National Bureau of Investigation director for intelligence services Ruel Lasala; and state counsels Wilberto Lolitol and Charlene Mae Tapic.
The undersecretary said the proceedings of the body may be covered by the media to to ensure transparency. The resource persons, if they wanted to, could bring their own lawyers to advise them, he added.
The DOJ official explained that the investigation, being fact-finding in nature, would establish whether there were criminal or administrative liabilities on the part of the public officials in allowing Leviste to go out of the NBP complex unmonitored.
The panel has been instructed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to ascertain whether or not the prison officials and guards were grossly negligent or remiss in their duties or had connived with Leviste to give him VIP treatment.
As for Diokno, a presidential appointee, Baraan said the panel would make the “necessary recommendations” that, if approved by De Lima, would be referred to Aquino for the final decision. He said the DOJ could sanction or dismiss the other BuCor and NBP officials with civil service eligibility, but not Diokno, a political appointee.
“That is not our call. …He’s a presidential appointee, but later on, depending on the outcome of the investigation, we can recommend that (sanctions ) to the President,” he said.
Leviste has been serving a 12-year sentence for the 2007 killing of his business aide Rafael de las Alas. He had been given a “living out” status as inmate, which allows him to go anywhere within the New Bilibid Prisons complex in Muntinlupa but not outside.
He was arrested by NBI agents Wednesday afternoon in front of Makati City’s LPL Tower building, which he owns. He had no guards and could not produce any permit authorizing him to leave the NBP premises.
Leviste was charged two days later for evasion of service of sentence.
On Saturday, the panel inspected the NBP in preparation for their hearings. Baraan and other members toured the minimum security compound where Leviste, a “sleepout” prisoner, was allowed to set up huts. They viewed the other inmates who were given “living-out” status and checked how security was being enforced at the penitentiary.

EDITORIAL
TWISTED CORRECTIONS
PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER
4:57 AM | TUESDAY, MAY 24TH, 2011
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BUREAU OF CORRECTIONS DIRECTOR ERNESTO DIOKNO HAS GIVEN A NEW MEANING TO THE WORD “CORRECTIONS.” ASKED ABOUT THE VIP TREATMENT GIVEN TO ANTONIO LEVISTE, INCLUDING SEVERAL GRANTS OF “LEAVE” IN WHICH THE FORMER BATANGAS GOVERNOR WAS ALLOWED TO LEAVE THE PREMISES OF THE NEW BILIBID PRISONS, DIOKNO SAID HE HAD BEEN AWARE OF THE PRISONER’S “UNAUTHORIZED TRIPS” BUT DISMISSED IT AS “JUST A SMALL MATTER.” UNTIL NOW, HE HAS NOT MADE ANY CORRECTION OR CLARIFICATION TO HIS REMARKS, WHICH A LAWMAKER HAS CALLED “FATAL” AND WHICH INFURIATED HIS BOSS, JUSTICE SECRETARY LEILA DE LIMA. APPARENTLY HIS AWARENESS OF LEVISTE’S TRIPS OUTSIDE THE NBP DOES NOT EXTEND TO SELF-AWARENESS ABOUT THE IMPLICATIONS OF HIS REMARKS.
DIOKNO’S NONCHALANCE REVEALS THE BLASÉ ATTITUDE THAT HAS BEEN FOSTERED BY A CORRECTIONS SYSTEM THAT RENDERS JUSTICE ACCORDING TO THE SOCIAL STATUS AND THE GRAVITY OF THE WALLET OF THE CONVICT: THE HIGHER THE SOCIAL STATUS AND THE FATTER THE WALLET, THE MORE SPECIAL THE TREATMENT OF THE PRISONER. (OF COURSE ALL THE REST OF THE PRISONERS WITH ZERO SOCIAL STATUS AND NEGATIVE INCOME GET THE FULL BRUNT OF JUSTICE, AS THEY SHOULD OF COURSE.) BUT WITH VIP PRISONERS GETTING VIP TREATMENT FROM PRISON WARDENS, WHERE’S THE JUSTICE IN ALL OF THIS?
AS PUERTO PRINCESA BISHOP PEDRO ARIGO SAID, THE SPECIAL TREATMENT OF VIPS AND OTHER INIQUITIES HAVE BEEN THERE FOR DECADES. “THERE’S A CULTURE OF IMPUNITY WHERE IF ONE IS RICH, INFLUENTIAL AND POWERFUL, ONE CAN GET AWAY FROM DETENTION, SUCH AS WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO (LEVISTE) AND FORMER ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE REP. ROMEO JALOSJOS,” HE SAID ON RADYO VERITAS. ARIGO, WHO CHAIRS THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF THE PHILIPPINES-EPISCOPAL COMMISSION ON PRISON PASTORAL CARE, SAID CORRUPTION IN THE PENAL SYSTEM IS “EASY TO UNDERSTAND” BECAUSE RICH CONVICTS ARE KNOWN TO USE THEIR MONEY AND INFLUENCE “AS EARLY AS DURING THEIR TRIAL.” ONCE CONVICTED AND SENTENCED, THEY WOULD PARLEY THEIR SOCIAL STATUS AND FINANCIAL WEIGHT FOR SPECIAL TREATMENT IN JAIL, WHICH PRISON WARDENS ALL TOO READILY GRANT THEM. WEALTHY CONVICTS, FOR EXAMPLE, ARE ALLOWED AIR-CONDITIONING. “I SEE MANY SUCH INSTANCES BECAUSE I GO TO MUNTINLUPA,” THE BISHOP SAID. “I WON’T MAKE THEM PUBLIC, BUT THAT’S WHAT IS SAD IN OUR CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM AT PRESENT. THE REALITY IS, IF YOU’RE POOR AND MONEY-LESS, YOU DON’T HAVE ANY INFLUENCE AND YOU’RE PITIFUL. BUT IF YOU’RE RICH, INFLUENTIAL AND HAVE CONNECTIONS, EVEN IF YOU GO TO JAIL, YOU GET VIP TREATMENT.”
DE LIMA SAID THE SPECIAL TREATMENT OF RICH AND INFLUENTIAL PRISONERS HAS BEEN AN “OPEN SECRET.” COMING FROM A MEMBER OF THE BAR AND A JUSTICE PROFESSIONAL WHO HAS BEEN LABORING UNDER THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM FOR SOME TIME, THE REMARK IS SHOCKING. WHAT HAVE THE DIFFERENT PILLARS OF THE JUSTICE SYSTEM BEEN DOING ALL ALONG TO CHECK AND CORRECT OUR TWISTED, POROUS CORRECTIONS SYSTEM? DE LIMA HAS ORDERED, FOR EXAMPLE, A COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW OF THE REVISED PENAL CODE TO MAKE ITS STATUTES MORE ATTUNED TO THE NEW CENTURY, BUT THE REVIEW MAY TAKE SOME TIME. WHAT SHE SHOULD HAVE ORDERED INSTEAD IS AN IMMEDIATE REVIEW OF THE PENAL AND PRISONS MANAGEMENT SYSTEM TO STOP IT FROM ACCORDING SPECIAL TREATMENT TO INFLUENTIAL PRISONERS.
TO HER CREDIT, IT WAS DE LIMA WHO ORDERED THE ARREST OF LEVISTE NEAR THE LPL BUILDING IN MAKATI, WHICH HE OWNS. SHE HAS ALSO ORDERED THE REVIEW OF SECURITY ARRANGEMENTS INSIDE THE NBP COMPOUND, INCLUDING THE PRISON GUARDS’ USE OF CELL PHONES. SHE SAID SHE HAD RECEIVED INFORMATION THAT AN INMATE WHO ORDERED THE KILLING OF BUCOR ASSISTANT DIRECTOR RODRIGO MERCADO GAVE THE ORDER FROM A CELL PHONE OBTAINED THROUGH A PRISON GUARD. APPARENTLY, SOME ENTERPRISING GUARDS HAVE BEEN “RENTING OUT” THEIR CELL PHONES TO PRISONERS, DE LIMA SAID. ALTHOUGH PRISONERS ARE PROHIBITED FROM USING CELL PHONES, SHE SAID, MOBILE DEVICES HAVE BEEN RECOVERED DURING PRISON RAIDS. THERE’S ALSO A DRUG PROBLEM INSIDE THE NBP, SHE ADDED.
LEVISTE’S ARREST HAS OPENED A CAN OF WORMS, AS DID EARLIER PRISON SCANDALS INVOLVING POWERFUL AND WEALTHY INMATES. THE TASK BEFORE DE LIMA AND THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT IS TO PUT A STOP TO THE COZY RELATIONSHIP THAT EXISTS BETWEEN JAILER AND JAILED, FIRE PRISON OFFICIALS WHO HAVE FOSTERED IT, AND REFORM THE PENAL SYSTEM. OTHER NEEDED MEASURES, SUCH AS THE REHABILITATION OF OUR JAILS SO THAT THE JUSTICE SYSTEM WOULD BE TRULY REHABILITATIVE, NOT PUTATIVE, WOULD OBVIOUSLY TAKE SOME TIME TO CARRY OUT. BUT THE OVERHAUL SHOULD START NOW.

Transfer Bilibid to the Spratlys
BY DR. DANTE A. ANG
I FELT sorry for my kumpadre, former Batangas Governor and convicted killer Jose Antonio Leviste, when I saw his picture in the newspapers as he was being led out of the LPL Building in Makati last week by the joint elements of the Intelligence Service and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
His photo was a far cry from his macho image when he was still a free man: a man about town, full of confidence, full of laughter. When the authorities swooped down on him, the traces of his old self had gone.
He tried to put up a brave front but deep inside, he must have felt a broken man, dejected and rejected.
What a pity for a man who had almost everything, only to come crashing down late in his life. There must be a lesson in all this.
The former governor was caught by the NBI operatives while on a furlough reportedly without permission from the Bilibid authorities. Prisoners are allowed to go out of the New Bilibid Prisons compound only for emergency medical cases after securing the necessary pass from the prison administration and the Department of Justice. He did not have a valid pass when he was apprehended.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that she has formed a panel to investigate the Leviste caper and that she expects a quick resolution in five days. The marathon hearings will start May 23 to 25 at the Department of Justice.
At the same time, the DOJ has filed a case against Leviste before the Metro Manila Trial Court for “knowingly, willfully and feloniously, escaped his confinement…as he was seen and arrested outside the LPL building along Gallardo Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City.”
Let’s call a spade a spade. Yes, Leviste “knowingly, willfully and feloniously escaped” from his confinement at the NBP but with the clear approval of the prison administration. There were only two ways he could have left Bilibid; with or without a pass. He didn’t have a pass when caught by the NBI team at the LPL Building?
So, who facilitated his leave? For money? How much?
According to a highly reliable source, Leviste had been going in and out of Bilibid for a long time as if “he is not a prisoner.” Acting on a tip, an intrepid broadcast journalist, the young, fast-rising star of ABS/CBN Anthony Taberna, immediately alerted the NBI, helped plan and set up a trap and coordinated with the operatives who waited for Leviste at his building on May 4. Leviste did not show up.
Another tip came on Friday, May 20. Taberna again called up the NBI and drove with the agents to the NBP and waited for the former governor to come out. True enough, at around 12 noon, Leviste’s car raced out of the Bilibid compound.
Taberna and the NBI agents trailed Leviste. His car breezed through the toll gate with an E-pass. Taberna’s and the NBI’s cars had no E-pass and had to pay the toll at the Southern Luzon Expressway (SLEX.) They lost their target as a result.
They were disappointed but didn’t lose hope. They followed their instincts that Leviste may have gone straight to the Leviste building. They made camp and waited for the former governor to come out. After two lonely hours of waiting, just when they were about to fold up, the suspect turned up at around 2 pm. The NBI agents immediately pounced on him when he came out of the building at around 5 pm.
Congratulations are in order. Taberna and the members of the Intelligence Service and the NBI should be credited for their effort that led to Leviste’s arrest.
I sympathize with my kumpadre more than anything else. His case is symptomatic of the national malaise that pervades our judicial, legal and penal system. The “prison break,” as the DOJ calls it, is a testament to the pervasive corruption in our penal colonies involving the high and the mighty.
In a statement to the Inquirer, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan said “Money and political influence are still being used to be in a better situation than the others. Drastic changes should be (made) there.” He also noted the possible “connivance between the inmates and some prison guards” and the “weak points in the security measures of Bilibid.”
He continued: “While the lowly inmates were staying in cramped cells like sardines, the wealthy inmates had built their own quarters complete with appliances such as electric fans and water coolers.” Baraan was not shown the “kubols” (native huts) and the cells with airconditioning units occupied by the rich and influential inmates who are privileged to own mobile phones with unrestricted use.
An inmate, according to the Inquirer, had earlier revealed that “prisoners who want to own a kubol would have to pay as much as P50,000 to NBP officials and gang mayors (leaders).”
A modern penitentiary is designed to foster moral renewal and spiritual rehabilitation. It is a place where criminals could mend their ways so that upon serving their sentence, they could rejoin society and contribute to the national good. Instead, our national prison and local jails have become a haven for more evil and recidivism. They have turned into a melting pot in a perverse way, for hardened criminals like rapists, drug lords, killers, gambling czars and kidnappers.
I have two suggestions for the national penitentiary, local jails and the penal system: the first urgent; the second, take it or leave it .
First, create a presidential commission to look into our antiquated penal system, the sordid conditions in the national prison (and its satellite colonies) and to recommend urgent reforms.
Our system of penology operates on the principle of retribution, not rehabilitation, of prisoners. The system punishes convicts, detainees and other prisoners, hardly giving them a second chance in life.
National prisons and local jails are dangerously congested. Many prisoners have to take turns sleeping for lack of space. Clean toilets and bathrooms hardly exist. Food is insufficient and lacking in nourishment, pegged at thirty pesos (P30) a day for each inmate. The air is fetid. Recreational and educational services are scant.
Disease is rampant. Random violence incessant. Brutality by jail guards is no longer news. Gang wars are intermittent. Prison breaks are common place. But privilege could be purchased for a handsome price. A persistent rumor is that some trusted killers are allowed liberty to leave jail to liquidate special victims.
The Bill of Rights in the Constitution recognizes the rights of prisoners to humane conditions and to have opportunities for self-improvement. Section 19 (2) of Article III provides: “The employment of physical, psychological or degrading punishment against any prisoner or detainee, or the use of sub-standard or inadequate penal facilities under subhuman conditions shall be dealt with by law.”
In the 1990s, a United Nations fact-finding team found Philippine prisons and jails “a penological monstrosity.”
The European Commission has called attention to squalid conditions in the national, provincial and municipal jails. The investigation into domestic penitentiaries is far from complete. Prisoners deserve to be “punished,” but not in the manner imposed by jail administrations.
Misery in the prisons and jails are a live time bomb. The sporadic protests from the prison population everywhere could break into a national outrage. Once a year, around November, the Philippine Church rallies the nation to a proper observance of a National Prisons Week. The Executive pays lip service. The Congress, which appropriates money for prisons, could do more to rehabilitate jails, expand prisons, provide better food and build modern facilities and services for the inmates.
A presidential commission on national prisons and local jails could provide the impetus.
My second suggestion? Relocate the Bilibid to a Philippine-owned island on the Spratlys. Transfer the prisoners there, in a new improved facility to enjoy space and cleaner air. Stronger security is assured in an isolated islet. There would be fewer prison breaks. Privileged leaves, such as that of Gov. Leviste’s, would be easier to check. Citizens could sleep more soundly at night.
Bring better-trained guards and more responsible officials. Former guards and jail executives who wish to resettle in the new place are welcome.
With a population of dancing inmates, the new Bilibid could become a tourism site. The inmates could help build or rebuild military facilities to strengthen Philippine defense. If unfriendly claimants threaten a takeover, an army of tough defenders could be rallied to protect our sovereignty.
If the inmates are allowed to vote, they could become a significant bloc. Give them the right to self-government and to representation in the Palawan provincial board. The new penitentiary has the potential to become a national asset, instead of a continuing laboratory for crime and human degradation.
Create the presidential commission on prisons and penology now. Let the studies for transfer to the Spratlys proceed pronto.
Send comments to opinion@ manilatimes.net.

Diokno goes on leave, won’t quit

Rejects De Lima call to resign
BY EVANGELINE DE VERA AND ASHZEL HACHERO
BUREAU of Corrections director Ernesto Diokno yesterday filed for leave of absence while unauthorized trips of former Batangas governor Antonio Leviste outside the National Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa are being investigated.
He filed for leave, effective yesterday, after turning down the appeal of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to resign, she said, to spare President Aquino from “further controversy.”
The President reiterated his disappointment over Diokno and his explanation on how Leviste managed to leave the NBP where he is supposed to be serving a 12-year sentence for killing a business partner in 2007.
“Pinaramdam ko sa kanya kung gaano ako kadismaya ako sa nangyaring yun. At ang importante iyong pagkakamali hindi mauulit,” he said.
Aquino said he will wait for results of the investigations being conducted by a panel from the justice department, and its recommendations, before deciding on whether to sack officials or just institute reforms at the NBP.
“Ireporma natin iyun at hindi tayo nakakasigurado kung iiwan pa natin iyong mga taong masasabi nating nagkulang dito. Obviously, may nagkulang. Ang tanong, sino at ilan sila na dapat iayos? Pwede pa bang ireporma o kailangan ng palitan?” he said.
The DOJ panel, supervised by Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, started yesterday the marathon hearings that will last until tomorrow. The panel is determining liabilities of BuCor officials and NBP jail wardens for Leviste’s trip outside the NBP without permission and a custodial guard.
Leviste was arrested Wednesday last week in front of his LPL Tower building in Makati City.
During the hearing, Leviste said no BuCor or NBP official authorized his trip. He said he tried to get permission but no official was available.
“My crime is that I had the illusion that I was already part of the BuCor family. It slipped my mind (that I have to get permission to leave) and said I’ll sneak out and come back right away,” Leviste told the fact-finding panel.
He said he had to go out and seek dental treatment in Makati for a toothache.
POLITICAL ISSUE
De Lima, at a press briefing, said she asked Diokno, a presidential appointee, to consider leaving his post “to shield the President from further controversy.”
“Nagiging issue na ito just to malign or put the President in the bad light. Sooner or later, magiging political issue ito. So I asked him, for the sake of the President, if perhaps he would consider resigning,” she said.
She said Diokno ruled out resigning.
“He (Diokno) wants to prove that the policy on command responsibility should not reach him. He said as of now he is not considering it, that he will wait for results of the hearing, whether or not masu-suspend siya. He might consider later, but now pinaninindigan niya. He said he is willing and ready and able to prove na hindi siya nagpabaya… Again it’s a personal decision on his part. We can’t force him to resign. We are giving him the opportunity to air his side,” De Lima said.
DRUG LORDS
In filing his leave, Diokno said, “This way, people will not think that I am influencing the outcome of the investigation. Whoever is liable must be made answerable.”
Diokno said he will resume his duties after the investigation. He also recommended his deputy, assistant director Teodora Diaz, to oversee the bureau during his absence.
De Lima said she might designate Baraan as officer in charge. She said it would be unwise to appoint a bureau insider as BuCor head.
Diokno expressed regret that the Leviste caper happened in the midst of his efforts of instituting reforms in the BuCor, such as stopping the illegal drugs trade in the national penitentiary.
PRIVILEGES
Leviste told the DOJ panel that he left the NBP premises without permission from Bucor officials as he was in a rush to see his dentist.
Leviste said he is taking full responsibility for his actions and that prison officials should not be made answerable for his wrongdoing. He also cleared his custodian, Fortunato Justo, of any criminal or civil liability, saying Justo is overseeing the whereabouts of seven or eight other inmates as well.
De Lima said the grant of privileges to prisoners is not wrong but there has to be strict guidelines and safeguards, and these are being applied properly, uniformly and not selectively.
“It’s probably more than negligence that’s involved here. It’s also the issue of corruption. Sino-sino ang nagkakapera in exchange for those privileges?” she said.
Aquino said among questions he wants the panel to answer is who are covered by the “living out” privileges. He asked how Leviste could earn such a privilege in the early stage of his sentence.
Aquino said he also wants a review of the condition at the NBP after he heard it was 300 percent overpopulated, and that salary scale and benefits of BuCor employees are reportedly left behind every time a salary increase is implemented in government.
SPECIAL TREATMENT
Leviste said he was not receiving special treatment at the NBP.
“In my two years stay here I have not received nor sought VIP treatment. I did not ask for living-out status, I earned it. Marunong po akong makisama at yung sinasabing moneyed, influential and powerful, ako po ay mahirap hingian. Hindi po ako nagbibigay ng hingian pero ako po ay tumutulong pag may nangangailangan,” he told the panel.
Asked why he did not seek dental treatment at the NBP infirmary, he said the infirmary was in a sorry state.
Asked by State Prosecutor Rohaira Lao-Tamano if he knew that inmates are prohibited from leaving the Bilibid, Leviste replied, “There was a need, and there was an opportunity.”
He said he did not intend to escape.
“Yung puga hindi na bumabalik, ang puslit bumabalik. Ako po ay hindi puga, ako ay pumuslit,” he said.
Leviste invoked his right to remain silent when asked if his trip last week was not the first one he made.
SECURITY ISSUES
The hearing discovered shortcomings in security, especially in the way prison officials are securing the 366-hectare minimum security compound at the Bilibid.
The minimum security compound houses inmates whose sentences are about to lapse or those above 70 years old, such as Leviste.
TREE-PLANTING PROJECT
BuCor officials were subjected to intense grilling by the panel.
Assistant director Diaz, NBP superintendent Ramon Reyes and his immediate predecessor, Armando Miranda, were questioned on the “sleep out” privileges.
State counsel Wilberto Tolitol said the system is prone to abuse considering that the approval for application rests on the “will and caprice” of whoever is the NBP superintendent.
Tolitol also questioned the lack of standards on who is qualified to avail of the privilege as well as the lack of personnel to monitor that the system is not abused by the inmates.
Diaz explained that the sleep-out status means that minimum security inmates can spend the night in private houses as long as these are inside the NBP compound, while the living-out privilege is granted to inmates above 70 years old and those who are about to complete their sentence.
Diaz said sleep-out status is granted to those who have special skills. She said Leviste was granted such status because of his “billion-tree” planting project. This surprised panel members.
He said Bucor agricultural production head Wilson Marquez granted sleep out status to Leviste who cited the latter’s tree-planting program.
BuCor officials admitted that the privilege does not exist in their operating manual but added it has been an internal policy of the corrections bureau since 1986.
‘FIRE EVERYBODY’
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said going on leave is not enough. He said Diokno should resign and stop blaming others.
“If I were to make a decision, he has to go. When I was secretary of justice and there was a riot in Muntinlupa, I immediately relieved the head of the Bureau of Correction,” Enrile said.
He also said while it is not the principle of command responsibility, “it’s a question of who is responsible for the bureau, something happened, he cannot pass the buck to anybody.”
Enrile said not only Diokno, but all other prison officials present when Leviste went out of the NBP, should be fired.
“I’ll fire everybody there. That’s about it. I’ll relieve everyone,” he said.
He said Diokno likely knew the “special treatment” being accorded favored prisoners.
“Pwede bang makalabas sa kulungan, hindi lang sa kulungan kung hindi sa labas pa ng kulungan? Nakakalabas pa sa compound ng Bilibid Prison na napakalaki-laki na may mga gwardiya ‘yung isang bilanggo. Anong klaseng prison ‘yan na walang permiso? Dahil mayaman siya? Dahil maraming pera siya? Dahil dating gobernador siya?” he said. – With Jocelyn Montemayor, JP Lopez and Gerard Naval

Baraan willing to sit as BuCor acting chief
By Angelo L. Gutierrez (philstar.com) Updated May 24, 2011 10:21 AM Comments (0)

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan said today that he is willing to temporarily supervise the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) in the absence of its director, Ernesto Diokno.
Baraan said in an interview with ABS-CBN News that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is mulling the possibility of appointing him as acting director of BuCor as Diokno has already filed a leave of absence.
“I’m willing to accept [the appointment],” Baraan said.
He said that legally he can take the position since he is already the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) supervising undersecretary of the BuCor.
Baraan heads the fact-finding body formed to investigate the supposed “prison break” of former Batangas governor Antonio Leviste.
Baraan’s team went around the National Bilibid Prisons compound in Muntinlupa City over the weekend and found irregularities in the jail facility’s security and the prison management’s rules on providing “living out” privileges to inmates, particularly to Leviste.
In time for the DOJ’s hearing on Leviste’s case, Diokno filed a leave of absence but made clear in his letter to De Lima that he will not resign.
Diokno said in his letter that he opted to go on leave “to give a free hand” to the DOJ’s fact-finding team. He also promised full cooperation to the DOJ probe saying “whoever is liable must be made answerable.”
“It is regrettable that these things happened in the midst of all my efforts in instituting reforms in prison,” he said.
He recommended his deputy Teodora Diaz as his temporary replacement.
Meanwhile, Baraan said that former BuCor chief Oscar Calderon may be invited to attend today’s hearing.
Baraan said that Leviste was given the “living out” privilege during the time of Calderon, who was Diokno’s predecessor.
Calderon was appointed as director of BuCor after retiring from the police service as chief of the Philippine National Police during the time of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

A SYSTEM OF LAXITY, COMPLICITY BARED IN PROBE OF LEVISTE’S PRISON BREAK
BY JEROME ANING
PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER
4:25 AM | WEDNESDAY, MAY 25TH, 2011
3 SHARE6
MANILA, PHILIPPINES—THE PRISON GUARD WHO WAS SUPPOSED TO MONITOR HOMICIDE CONVICT JOSE ANTONIO LEVISTE’S MOVEMENTS IN THE NATIONAL BILIBID PRISON IN MUNTINLUPA CITY ADMITTED TO A FACT-FINDING PANEL OF THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE THAT HE WAS NOT ABLE TO KEEP TRACK OF LEVISTE’S EVERY MOVE AND HAD FAILED TO PREVENT THE CONVICT’S UNAUTHORIZED TRIPS OUT OF THE PRISON.
PRISON GUARD FORTUNATO JUSTO, WHO WAS IN CHARGE OF THE CUSTODY OF LEVISTE, EXPLAINED THAT HE HAD 21 OTHER “SLEEP-OUT” OR “LIVING-OUT” PRISONERS UNDER HIS CUSTODY AND WAS ONLY REQUIRED TO CONDUCT A HEADCOUNT ONCE EACH MORNING, LUNCHTIME AND AFTERNOON.
A “LIVING-OUT” PRISONER IN BILIBID IS WITHIN MINIMUM SECURITY AND CAN ROAM THE BILIBID PRISONS COMPOUND BUT IS, OF COURSE, PROHIBITED FROM LEAVING THE COMPOUND UNLESS FOR A MEDICAL EMERGENCY, UNDER AUTHORIZATION FROM PRISON OFFICIALS.
A “SLEEP-OUT” PRISONER, JUST LIKE THE “LIVING OUT” PRISONER, IS ALLOWED TO SET UP HIS OWN HUT WITHIN THE BILIBID COMPOUND AND SLEEP THERE, BUT CAN ONLY STEP OUT OF THE PRISON COMPOUND DURING EMERGENCIES.
“WE JUST GIVE THEM (THE PRISONERS) OUR TRUST AND CONFIDENCE,” JUSTO TOLD STUNNED DOJ INVESTIGATORS WHEN ASKED IF HE THOUGHT HE WAS ABLE TO DO HIS JOB IN GUARDING THE PRISONERS UNDER HIS CARE.
THE GUARD ADDED THAT HE HIMSELF WENT AROUND THE NEW BILIBID AGRO-FARM COMPOUND TO CONDUCT THE HEADCOUNT BY LOOKING FOR THE PRISONERS ONE BY ONE.
BY THE TIME LEVISTE WAS SAID TO HAVE VANISHED, JUSTO SAID HE WAS IN THE TREE NURSERY WHERE FOLIAGE WAS THICK. HE SAID LEVISTE WAS STILL PRESENT WHEN HE CONDUCTED A HEADCOUNT AT 2 P.M. AND 4 P.M.
THE GUARD SAID HE LEARNED THAT LEVISTE HAD VANISHED AT AROUND 4:15 P.M., AND REPORTED LEVISTE’S DISAPPEARANCE TO THE BUCOR RESERVATION SUPPORT SERVICE PERSONNEL WHO WERE IN CHARGE OF SECURING THE NBP AND ITS MINIMUM SECURITY PRISONERS.
HE SAID HE WAS STILL LOOKING FOR LEVISTE BY 9 P.M., NOT KNOWING THAT THE PRISONER WAS ARRESTED IN MAKATI CITY AT 5:30 P.M.
HE DESCRIBED LEVISTE AS “KIND,” ADDING THAT THE CONVICT SOMETIMES PERFORMED MAGIC TRICKS.
JUSTO CONFESSED THAT HE RECOMMENDED THE SENDING OF EIGHT PRISONERS, INCLUDING LEVISTE, TO AN AGRO-FARM PROJECT WITHIN THE BILIBID COMPOUND. THE EIGHT WERE ALSO PICKED BY A GROUP CALLED THE “BUCOR LOVE FOUNDATION,” WHICH, ACCORDING TO JUSTO, IS KNOWN FOR ITS TREE-PLANTING ACTIVITIES. JUSTO SAID HE THOUGHT THE PRISONERS WOULD DO WELL IN THE PROJECT.
BUT, UNDER INTENSE QUESTIONING, JUSTO ADMITTED THAT HE HAD NO AUTHORITY TO MAKE SUCH A RECOMMENDATION. DOJ PANEL MEMBER WILBERTO TOLITOL LATER TOLD HIM THAT THE FOUNDATION HAD LINKS WITH LEVISTE AND THAT LEVISTE MIGHT HAVE WORKED BEHIND THE SCENES TO RECOMMEND PUSH FOR HIS INCLUSION AND THOSE OF SEVEN INMATES IN THE AGRO-PROJECT, WHICH GAVE THEM THE PRIVILEGE TO SLEEP IN HUTS OUTSIDE OF THE ORDINARY JAIL CELLS, WITHIN THE PRISON COMPOUND.
THE PANEL LEARNED THAT WHEN THE DOCUMENT RECOMMENDING THEM FOR THE AGRO-PROJECT WAS ISSUED, LEVISTE’S NAME WAS ALREADY INCLUDED ON THE LIST.
THE AGRO-PRODUCTION SECTION CHIEF, WILSON MARQUEZ, AND THE CHIEF OVERSEER OF THE MINIMUM SECURITY CAMP, INSPECTOR ARTEMIO MARTIN, BOTH CLAIMED THAT FORMER NBP SUPERINTENDENT ARMANDO MIRANDA WAS THE ONE WHO RECOMMENDED THE INCLUSION OF LEVISTE IN THE AGRO-FARM PROJECT. MIRANDA’S SUCCESSOR, RAMON REYES, ALSO CONFIRMED THIS.
MARQUEZ ADDED THAT BEING A CIVILIAN, HE WAS BYPASSED IN THE SELECTION OF EIGHT PRISONERS FOR THE AGRO-FARM PROJECT. HE LATER ADMITTED, HOWEVER, HE SUPPORTED THE INCLUSION OF LEVISTE IN THE PROJECT.
“I’M THE ONLY ONE WHO HAS THE RIGHT TO REQUEST FOR PERSONNEL. BUT I MADE THE REQUEST (FOR LEVISTE) FOLLOWING THE VERBAL INSTRUCTION OF SUPERINTENDENT MIRANDA,” HE SAID.
JUSTO AND HIS IMMEDIATE SUPERIOR, SUPERINTENDENT ROBERTO RABO; PRISON GUARDS FRANCISCO LIWANAG AND HILARIO PANAGUITON; THEIR SUPERIOR CRUZ; AND MARQUEZ, HAVE ALL BEEN ORDERED RELIEVED FROM THEIR POSTS BY BUCOR DIRECTOR ERNESTO DIOKNO.
DIOKNO HAS GONE ON LEAVE TO GIVE WAY TO THE DOJ INVESTIGATION OF LEVISTE’S PRISON BREAK.

Bungling in govt no big deal

New Bilibid Prisons Supt. Dante Cruz (right) talks with NBP Chief Supt. Ramon Reyes on unauthorized movements of former Gov. Jose Antonio Leviste of Batangas. PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN
Malacañang can’t get ‘personal’ with Diokno
By Cris G. Odronia and Jomar Canlas, Reporters
GOVERNMENT officials apparently could push their luck with the Aquino administration without having to worry about dire consequences of their lapses in judgment or, perhaps worse, deliberate wrongdoing.
For these officials, also apparently including Ernesto Diokno, the embattled director of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), vacating their posts would never be demanded of them by Malacañang despite people’s perception that they had bungled their mandates as public servants.
“Every time we’re asked about any particular official’s resignation, what we always say is that resignation is at the option of the official concerned,” Malacañang deputy spokesman Abigail Valte explained on Tuesday.
The official concerned in this case is Diokno, under whose watch former Gov. Jose Antonio Leviste of Batangas—a homicide convict who still has to serve 10 years in jail—seemed to be enjoying special privileges, such as being allowed to leave the National Bilibid Prisons (NBP) recently for dental treatment without official permission from any of the authorities.
Valte said that the Palace does not want to interfere in the personal decision of the official concerned, apparently referring to the BuCor chief.
“Ayaw po naming pangunahan, ayaw naming makialam doon sa personal decision ng opisyal na ‘yon [We do not want to preempt whatever the concerned official plans to do, we do not want to meddle in the personal decision of that official]” she further explained.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima earlier said that Diokno should consider resigning for the sake of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
The BuCor director went on leave on Monday, the start of investigation by the Department of Justice of the Leviste caper of May 18.
Valte said that Malacañang believed that Diokno—an appointee of President Aquino—deserved “due process.”
“We’d like to accord Director Diokno that process,” the deputy spokesman told a Palace press briefing.
The Justice department, which is expected to wrap up the investigation of the Leviste incident today, also on Tuesday announced that it would also probe allegedly rampant use of illegal drugs, unrestricted access to cellular phones and spread of prostitution at the NBP, the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila).
Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan 3rd said that “heads will roll” once it is proved that BuCor officials are involved in the prohibited activities inside the penitentiary.
According to Baraan, the Justice department recently discovered that illegal drugs and prostitution are just as widespread inside the NBP under Diokno’s watch as they are outside the penitentiary.
He said that funding was necessary to purchase CCTV cameras in order to record “vacations” such as that taken by Leviste and the smuggling of drugs and women into the NBP.
De Lima had ordered investigation of the smuggling, which she said officials were ignoring.
Baraan said that “inquiries should also be pursued against the erring jail guards and officials on the drugs and prostitution issues.”
He added that the department would reorganize the jail guards, mainly those at the NBP’s maximum security area, in order to weed out those who allegedly have allowed and tolerated illegal drugs and prostitutes inside the penitentiary.
Sniffing drugs
When Oscar Calderon was BuCor director, many prisoners were caught sniffing shabu inside convicted killer Rolito Go’s cell at the maximum security area.
Go who was sentenced to jail over 10 years ago by a local court was once kicked out of the NBP and transported to a penal colony in Leyte during the time of then-BuCor chief Dionisio Santiago.
The move was made after other inmates and NBP employees petitioned for his transfer but he was returned to the penitentiary in early 2008 and allegedly has since gone back to his old activities.
Prisoners had also been caught in possession of shabu and cell phones in a surprise inspection made by prison authorities.
NBP rules prohibit inmates from possessing cell phones.
Fortunato Justo, the custodian designated to keep an eye on Leviste, was grilled by a five-man Justice department panel on the second day of the fact-finding probe of the vacation taken by the former governor.
Justo admitted to committing lapses in monitoring Leviste, a “sleep-out” inmate, particularly last week when the former governor went to the dentist.
Prisoners at the minimum security area are granted “living-out” status if they are about to complete the service of their sentences or they are above 70 years old.
These prisoners can roam the NBP compound during daytime in order to help them reintegrate into society.
In contrast, the sleep-out inmates can spend the night in private homes inside the prison compound but away from prison cells at the minimum security area.
At the Senate, the chairman of the committee on revision of laws also on Tuesday said that she will ask the Justice department to send her a study paper on the feasibility of a “pay-to-stay” program in national jails that should be made available only to convicts sentenced for non-violent crimes.
“We need to change existing laws, to separate maximum security from minimum security prisoners. Minimum security prisoners should be allowed to apply for a pay-to-stay program, if they are willing to pay hotel rates,” Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago told Senate reporters during an interview.
Santiago said that such program was observed in the United States penal system, allowing wealthy prisoners to be housed separately from other inmates, provided that they pay hotel rates.
Under the American program, prisoners are allowed private cells, work release programs, Ipods, mobile phones and computers.
The senator said that pay-to-stay programs were implemented in most cities in California and were being considered for implementation in New York and Massachusetts.
Santiago added that the law that she proposes would not apply to Leviste because he was convicted of a violent crime.
With report from Sammy Martin

Jail chief faces probe, washes hands off Leviste ‘escapade’
By Jun Pasaylo Home Updated May 25, 2011 11:40 AM 7 comments to this post

MANILA, Philippines – The beleaguered head of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) maintained he should not be held responsible for the “outside escapade” of former Batangas governor Jose Antonio Leviste as he faced the investigating panel of the Department of Justice (DOJ) today.
At the hearing, BuCor chief Ernesto Diokno, who went on-leave after the Leviste incident, admitted that he had knowledge of the “sleeping out” privilege of the former governor.
He, however, pointed out that he did not know anything about Leviste’s trip outside of the prison compound.
“We didn’t have evidence to prove Leviste’s out-of-prison trips,” he said.
He added that Leviste made trips outside the prison compound even as he had issued a memo directing all superintendents to strictly monitor the movements of all inmates.
The jail official pointed out that he immediately revoked the “sleeping out” privilege of Leviste following his arrest last week.
Diokno insisted that jail officials in the minimum security facility, where Leviste was supposed to be detained, should be blamed for the incident.

Diokno defends self at DoJ
By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
4:36 am | Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director Ernesto Diokno. INQUIRER file photo
MANILA, Philippines—Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director-on-leave Ernesto Diokno on Wednesday denied being involved in the grant of special privileges to homicide convict Jose Antonio Leviste, who was arrested last week after making an unauthorized trip out of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
Diokno, who appeared before a justice department panel investigating the possible administrative liability of BuCor officials in the Leviste incident, said the grant of special privileges and the monitoring of their exercise lay with the superintendents of the various state penitentiaries, of which the NBP is one.
Diokno said he had issued a memorandum to the superintendents to monitor the enforcement of prison regulations, but admitted that he did not always stringently monitor the implementation of his instructions.
“I’m not obliged to guard them [the prisoners], I’m just concerned with policymaking,” said Diokno.
Senior State Prosecutor Susan Dacanay, a panel member, found this unacceptable, saying Diokno’s duties and functions were expressly stated in the law.
No more figurehead
“You are not merely a figurehead there. You have specific functions stated by the law. This does not only involve policy, but also rules and regulations for the effective [administration] of the BuCor,” Dacanay said.
According to Diokno, shortly after assuming office last October, he held a command conference with NBP officials and with the leaders of the prison gangs—or “council of elders”—and warned then about the abuse of privileges.
At that time, “raw information” had reached his office that some VIP prisoners had been going out of the NBP premises without authorization
Diokno recounted warning the “elders,” who number about 40 and included Leviste, that he would not tolerate abuses and that he would have them arrested and charged.
Asked why he did not immediately cancel the “living in” and “sleep-out” privileges granted to inmates like Leviste, Diokno said he wanted to obtain concrete evidence first.
Though Diokno did not name him, the prison official who approved Leviste’s privileges was former NBP superintendent Armando Miranda, who has since been replaced by Ramon Reyes.
Diokno angered panel members when he said Miranda could not implement his orders because he [Miranda] was already “old.”
Diokno admitted that he did not regard sleep-out and living-in privileges as irregular, adding that this was one of the “best practices” at the NBP.
He explained that the BuCor has evolved from a purely punitive system in the treatment of prisoners to the “restorative and restitutive” system wherein convicts are reformed by making them contribute to the community while serving time.
BuCor manual
Diokno said he toured the NBP reservation and saw the hut built by Leviste near a river where the convict, who was working in an agro-farm project, was allowed to spend the night instead of returning to detention.
He said the former governor and his companions were raising tree seedlings for their “one billion trees” project.
Of Leviste’s privileges, Diokno said he thought the setup was wrong, but that he had not studied the matter very well because his priority was the drug problem in the reservation. He recalled that one of his deputies was recently murdered.
He blamed the drug problem on the government’s allowing people to settle within the NBP reservation.
Teodora Diaz, Diokno’s current deputy who is now acting director, justified the grant of privileges. She said that while the current BuCor manual does not mention any sleep-out and living-in privileges, the old manual did and the NBP has continued to grant the privileges since these were not in inconsistent with the provisions of the new manual.
The panel earlier discovered that the recommendation for the sleep-out privileges for eight inmates who were deployed at the agro-farm compound originally contained only eight individuals but when the approval came, Leviste’s name was included as the ninth beneficiary.
The panel established that the eight participants were chosen by a nongovernment organization, the BuCor Love Foundation, of which Leviste was a “core” member.
Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, the panel’s supervising officer, said the panel would study which of the prison officials would be charged administratively and criminally. The panel is expected to come up with a report by Friday.
Baraan said the panel would also look into the operations of the BuCor Love (for Livelihood Opportunities: Volunteers for Ex-Offenders) Foundation, to “see if NGOs like it were being used a source of unwarranted benefits.”
The foundation’s board of trustees is chaired by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno.
Up to Diokno
In Malacañang, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the Palace was leaving it up to Diokno to respond to calls for him to resign to spare President Aquino from political embarrassment.
“We leave it to each public official the discretion to know what’s best for the country, what’s best for the President,” Lacierda told a news briefing.
He said Mr. Aquino was “not happy” about the incident and that was why Diokno, who is reputed to be close to the President, was summoned to Malacañang last week.
And while Diokno was appointed by Mr. Aquino, Lacierda said appointees were expected to perform and do their jobs. With a report from Christine Avendaño

Prisons chief admits dropping the ball on Leviste caper
By Jerome Aning, Tetch Torres
INQUIRER.net, Philippine Daily Inquirer
2:44 pm | Wednesday, May 25th, 2011
MANILA, Philippines—New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) Chief Ernesto Diokno acknowledged dropping the ball on the issue of special privileges to some inmates. Reason : he had focused his energies on a reported drug problem festering inside the national penitentiary that had led to the death of one of his deputies.
Diokno told investigators on Wednesday during the hearings conducted by the Department of Justice (DoJ) fact-finding committee, that he had noticed that special privileges were being doled out to some inmates, particularly those allowed to stay in separate facilities (“nipa huts”) outside the minimum security compound, but his attention was occupied on other matters.
“Hindi ko po yan nadaanan masyado dahil ang aking drive ngayon ay yung drug problem, dahil napatay ang isang opisyal ko (“I didn’t focus on that too much as my drive was focused on the drug problem inside the prison, where one of my men was killed”) ,” Diokno said referring to the recent death of Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Assistant Director Rodrigo Mercado.
But Diokno stoutly denied that he had anything to do with the unauthorized trips of convicted killer Jose Antonio Leviste outside the New Bilibid Prison.
He said he was only “concerned with policies”, and that the superintendent of the national penitentiary had control over the accommodations extended to select prisoners such as Leviste.
He said, however, that upon receiving “raw information” a few months ago that some inmates were going out of the prison’s premises, he convened a conference with prison officials and leaders of the various prison gangs to warn them against abuse of “living in” and “sleep-out” privileges.
“I did not order the revocation of the privileges because we had no evidence yet,” Diokno revealed.
He said he ordered prison officials to furnish him daily reports on the movements of prisoners, as well as their visitors.
Diokno said when he was appointed to the NBP on Oct. 11, 2010, he started conducting ocular inspections of all penal colonies including the NBP and noticed several irregularities prompting him to issue a number of policy memorandum orders for his deputies.
He said he also met the council of elders (the VIP inmates who are consultants of various gangs inside the penitentiary), one of whom happened to be former Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste.
“Sinabihan ko sila (including Leviste) nung unang command conference namin na may nababalitaan ako na lumalabas sa kanila. Sinabihan ko na yung mga lumalabas diyan hindi pwede sa kin dahil ipahuhuli ko kayo at kakasuhan (“I told them, including Leviste, during the command conference that I had heard of inmates going out of the facility. I told those who went outside that I would not stand for this, and would have them arrested and charged),” Diokno claimed.
He added that he saw Leviste’s hut in his first ocular inspection of the area. However, he argued that he could not just change the policies imposed by his predecessor.
“Those policies were already there. I could not just change these because we are following the restorative model of justice or reformation. Our actions cannot be punitive,” said Diokno, responding to a question on why he allowed inmates to enjoy ‘living out’ or ‘sleep out’ privileges.
‘Living out’ inmates are minimum security inmates who are allowed to roam around the national penitentiary, but are required to return to their cell at night. Inmates with “sleep out status” are allowed to roam the national penitentiary reservation camps, and normally stay in their own huts built within the camp.
The DoJ is conducting a fact finding inquiry on the special privileges granted to some inmates following the arrest of Leviste outside a building he owns in Makati City last May 18. Last Saturday (May 21), the DoJ panel conducted an ocular inspection of the premises of the New Bilibid Prisons. Clarificatory hearings kicked off on Monday (May 23) inside the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa, where they also grilled Leviste.
Hearings on Tuesday and today were conducted at the DoJ Building in Padre Faura, Manila.
Diokno declared to the panel that he should not be held liable for Leviste’s escape.
“Hindi naman ako obligado na magbantay sa kanila. Policy-making lang po ako,” Diokno explained.
The DoJ panel of investigators is headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Dacanay. Her members are Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Ma. Emilia Victorio, DOJ State Counsels Wilberto Tolitol and Charlene Mae Tapic, and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Intelligence Services deputy director Ruel Lasala.
The panel will wrap up its hearings today, Wednesday, after which a recommendation will be submitted to Secretary De Lima.

DOJ eyes major reshuffle of prison guards, overhaul of jail system
By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
10:20 pm | Thursday, May 26th, 2011
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice is considering a “total overhaul” of the penal system as a result of the controversy concerning the special privileges enjoyed by former Batangas Gov. Antonio Leviste and other VIP inmates of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
Speaking on Thursday at a press conference, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III said the panel looking into the liabilities of NBP and Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials vis a vis Leviste’s unauthorized trip to Makati City on May 18 would recommend a top-to-bottom reshuffle, and the strengthening of security measures at the national penitentiary.
“We will recommend a total overhaul of the system in the NBP, the replacement of the guards, and even the officers. We are discussing the possibility of having some members of the Philippine Army guard the NBP in the meantime,” said Baraan, the supervising officer of the panel.
“There will be replacements or reassignments. We will include among our recommendations the retraining and reorientation [of BuCor personnel]. We will inculcate professionalism [in the ranks],” he said.
The fate of BuCor Director-on-leave Ernesto Diokno and his deputies will depend on President Aquino because they are presidential appointees, according to Baraan.
For three days starting on Monday, the fact-finding panel formed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima looked into the circumstances that allowed Leviste, a homicide convict, to leave the NBP compound in Muntinlupa City without a pass, and travel to Makati where he was arrested by authorities.
The panel inspected the security arrangements at the penitentiary and questioned Leviste, Diokno, other NBP officials, and guards.
Malacañang has been looking forward to getting the panel’s findings and recommendations from De Lima on Friday, upon the President’s return from a state visit to Thailand, his spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told reporters on Wednesday.
But De Lima would submit only a “partial update” on the panel’s findings, Lacierda said.
Diokno, who had earlier told reporters that he could not be expected to guard all the prisoners at the NBP, is reputed to be close to the President.
He was summoned to Malacañang last week, but Mr. Aquino later expressed dissatisfaction with his initial statements and indicated that his fate would depend on how he would explain himself to the fact-finding panel.
A former chief of police of Manila, Diokno told the panel on Wednesday that he was not to blame for Leviste’s behavior because his main job was not guarding prisoners but “policymaking.”
Baraan, who has been appointed officer in charge of the BuCor, said the recommendations of the panel would reach “up to the level of the director.”
He said the report would “deal with how strong, how sufficiently established, are the liabilities” of the officials concerned.
He also said the first part of the report would tackle the criminal and administrative liabilities of the prison officials, and the second part, the reforms that were needed at the BuCor and the other penitentiaries.
Baraan said the cancellation of the prisoners’ “sleep out” and “living out” privileges might be done at the level of the Department of Justice. (A “sleep-out” privilege allows an inmate to sleep in a hut within the prison compound. The “live-out” privilege allows minimum security inmates to roam freely within the Bilibid prisons compound.
He noted that “sleep out” privileges had been revoked, and that “living out” privileges were being retained for elderly and disabled inmates, as well as those with less than a year remaining in their prison terms.
“The grant of the living out’ privilege should not be automatic. The basis is the record (conduct and behavior) of the inmate, his age, and the length of the sentence served. This is contained in the old manual,” he said.
Baraan said the justice department recognized the complaint of prison officials concerning the lack of funds, and the entry of private settlers into the NBP reservation.
But he pointed out that these should not be used as “excuses for relaxing security.”
He said that unless reforms were put in place, escapes, attempted escapes and unauthorized trips would continue.
Baraan cited the example of a drug trafficking convict, Frank Chua, who disappeared from the NBP in 2004 and was never seen again.
“He was said to have escaped in 2004, but this was not reported. He’s a big-time drug trafficker. This was not given due attention. We’re looking into that now, and I have inquired from our officials in the bureau. We will look into whether he is still being hunted. The possibility is that he is already out of the country,” Baraan said.
He also said there would be a separate inquiry into reports of drug use, prostitution and gambling in the NBP, the Correctional Institute for Women, and other state penitentiaries nationwide.
Baraan said that a proposal by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima to develop the NBP into a commercial district and use the proceeds for its relocation had been revived and that the President had ordered the matter studied.
He said the penitentiary could be transferred to Tanay, Rizal, or several regional prisons could be set up so that convicts from faraway regions would no longer have to be transported all the way to Manila for incarceration.
He said portions of the NBP could be turned over for development by private investors and leased out to companies under the build-operate-transfer scheme. With a report from Christine O. Avendaño

One-way street
Philippine Daily Inquirer
12:16 am | Friday, May 27th, 2011
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EDITORIAL CARTOON
PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN Edwin Lacierda says Malacañang is leaving it to public officials to have the “discretion to know what is best for the country (and) what is best for the President.” In the case of Bureau of Corrections director Ernesto Diokno, who has come under fire following the arrest of former Batangas Gov. Antonio Leviste for leaving without permission the New Bilibid Prison where he is serving sentence for the killing of a business associate, Lacierda said he should “consider the public interest” in deciding how to respond to mounting calls for his resignation.

But Malacañang may have to wait a long time before Diokno discovers where his own private interest ends and where the public interest begins. Right now he seems to believe that the two intersect in his keeping the post. Subtle reminders and broad hints that his departure from office would best serve the public interest have gone unheeded by him. Not even a public rebuke from President Aquino, who had plucked him from retirement and appointed him to his present position, would make him leave. All because he professes innocence in the scandal that exposed the special privileges Leviste enjoyed, like “living out” and “sleeping out” of jail, highlighted by his decision to slip out of the prison compound purportedly to seek relief from a painful tooth with his dentist.
Don’t look at me, blame those who serve under me, Diokno has been saying from the day the Leviste visit to his Makati home and office became public. On Wednesday he told the Department of Justice panel investigating the incident that he had heard reports about special privileges granted to some moneyed and influential prisoners and had issued a memorandum directing strict enforcement of prison regulations. But he said he did not monitor if his instructions were followed. “I am not obliged to guard them (prisoners), I am just concerned with policymaking,” he explained.
Senior state prosecutor Susan Dacanay, however, told Diokno that the responsibilities and functions of the BuCor director do not end with crafting policies. She reminded him that the law vests the BuCor director with the responsibility for “the execution of penal policies, plans and programs.” She said: “You are supposed to execute and administer laws … and enforce the rules governing the operations and management of prisons.”
It is either that Diokno is ignorant of what his job entails or he is pleading ignorance to extricate himself from a big jam. But whether one or the other, the fact remains that he has failed in his job and he has failed the President, who is reputedly a friend of his. He has become another embarrassment to an administration that has been successively embarrassed by the mistakes of officials known to be close to Mr. Aquino: Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno, who was partly blamed for the deadly hostage-taking at the Luneta, and Land Transportation Office chief Virginia Torres, who was enmeshed in a legal dispute over the contract to supply driver’s licenses.

In each of these cases, the President failed to act with the firmness, decisiveness and dispatch expected of him by the public but instead hemmed and hawed and invoked the erring official’s right to due process until the controversy blew over. And in every case, his friends never thought of sparing the President the embarrassment of being blamed somehow for appointing someone who proved unequal to the challenge of the job. It seems that Mr. Aquino has had the bad fortune to be close to people who think friendship is a one-way street.
When Cabinet members get into trouble, they routinely seek sanctuary in the axiom that they serve at the pleasure of the President. Diokno, who occupies a lower position, apparently thinks that even the President’s express displeasure with his performance can simply be ignored.
Mr. Aquino said over the weekend that he was “not happy” with Diokno’s explanations. In appointing officials, he pointed out, trust and confidence are required, and once these are lost, “there is a corresponding action.” Since Diokno cannot take the hint, Mr. Aquino should just tell him straight that he wants him out. Or is he incapable of displeasing friends who have displeased him?

Army troops to guard NBP
Diokno’s fate in DOJ’s hands
BY JOMAR CANLAS REPORTER
THE Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday disclosed that members of the Philippine Army would be posted inside the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila) in order to stop former Gov. Jose Antonio Leviste of Batangas and other convicts from spending “holidays” outside NBP.
According to Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan 3rd, the Army personnel would be temporarily detailed at NBP in the aftermath of reported irregularities recently discovered at the national penitentiary and the sacking of some officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
Baraan pointed out that the move was also in line with tightening security at the penitentiary in response to Leviste getting out of NBP without official permit.
On May 18, the former governor was found to have left the penitentiary to visit his dentist with no proper authorization.
With deployment of the Army troops, some prison guards at the NBP may either be reassigned or transferred to other penal facilities so as to avoid ”familiarity” between the guards and the inmates.
Baraan told reporters that he would suggest to Justice Secretary Leila De Lima the provision of additional funds to NBP so that reforms could be implemented.
He said that he also would propose installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras within the premises of the national penitentiary.
BuCor is an attached agency of the DOJ, which has administrative control and supervision over NBP and penal colonies in Davao; Iwahig and Coron, both in Palawan; and Abuyug, Leyte.
‘Personal’ option
The fate of its chief, Director Ernesto Diokno, would be determined by recommendations from the Justice department based on the department’s completion of investigation of the Leviste caper today.
Diokno has refused to take responsibility for the “vacation” taken by the former governor and Malacañang said that it would not ask him to resign because that was a “personal” option for him to take.
Speaking to reporters during President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s departure for a two-day state visit to Thailand also on Thursday, Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said that de Lima had informed him that the DOJ report would be finished by Friday.
“The DOJ report was being finalized until last night [Thursday night]. Secretary Leila de Lima informed me that the full report will be submitted to the President or they will complete the full report by Friday,” Lacierda added.
The Justice department had formed a panel of prosecutors to look into how the 71-year-old Leviste, who was convicted by the Makati Regional Trial Court of the crime of homicide, was able to leave the national penitentiary with apparent impunity.
Diokno, who recently took an indefinite leave of absence, on Wednesday told the DOJ five-man panel that he should not be blamed for the unauthorized exit of the former Batangas governor from NBP.
He said that “special privileges” given to some inmates of the penitentiary—such as those accorded Leviste—were not his main concern but the drug problem there that according to him led to the death of one of his deputies.
Lacierda said that Malacañang was hoping that de Lima would be able to submit the DOJ report upon the return of President Aquino from his state visit to Thailand.
He added that de Lima will be giving the President partial updates about the report.
The President was expected to return to Manila from Bangkok on Friday evening.
CRIS G. ODRONIA

Bungling in govt no big deal

New Bilibid Prisons Supt. Dante Cruz (right) talks with NBP Chief Supt. Ramon Reyes on unauthorized movements of former Gov. Jose Antonio Leviste of Batangas. PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN
Malacañang can’t get ‘personal’ with Diokno
By Cris G. Odronia and Jomar Canlas, Reporters
GOVERNMENT officials apparently could push their luck with the Aquino administration without having to worry about dire consequences of their lapses in judgment or, perhaps worse, deliberate wrongdoing.
For these officials, also apparently including Ernesto Diokno, the embattled director of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), vacating their posts would never be demanded of them by Malacañang despite people’s perception that they had bungled their mandates as public servants.
“Every time we’re asked about any particular official’s resignation, what we always say is that resignation is at the option of the official concerned,” Malacañang deputy spokesman Abigail Valte explained on Tuesday.
The official concerned in this case is Diokno, under whose watch former Gov. Jose Antonio Leviste of Batangas—a homicide convict who still has to serve 10 years in jail—seemed to be enjoying special privileges, such as being allowed to leave the National Bilibid Prisons (NBP) recently for dental treatment without official permission from any of the authorities.
Valte said that the Palace does not want to interfere in the personal decision of the official concerned, apparently referring to the BuCor chief.
“Ayaw po naming pangunahan, ayaw naming makialam doon sa personal decision ng opisyal na ‘yon [We do not want to preempt whatever the concerned official plans to do, we do not want to meddle in the personal decision of that official]” she further explained.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima earlier said that Diokno should consider resigning for the sake of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
The BuCor director went on leave on Monday, the start of investigation by the Department of Justice of the Leviste caper of May 18.
Valte said that Malacañang believed that Diokno—an appointee of President Aquino—deserved “due process.”
“We’d like to accord Director Diokno that process,” the deputy spokesman told a Palace press briefing.
The Justice department, which is expected to wrap up the investigation of the Leviste incident today, also on Tuesday announced that it would also probe allegedly rampant use of illegal drugs, unrestricted access to cellular phones and spread of prostitution at the NBP, the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila).
Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan 3rd said that “heads will roll” once it is proved that BuCor officials are involved in the prohibited activities inside the penitentiary.
According to Baraan, the Justice department recently discovered that illegal drugs and prostitution are just as widespread inside the NBP under Diokno’s watch as they are outside the penitentiary.
He said that funding was necessary to purchase CCTV cameras in order to record “vacations” such as that taken by Leviste and the smuggling of drugs and women into the NBP.
De Lima had ordered investigation of the smuggling, which she said officials were ignoring.
Baraan said that “inquiries should also be pursued against the erring jail guards and officials on the drugs and prostitution issues.”
He added that the department would reorganize the jail guards, mainly those at the NBP’s maximum security area, in order to weed out those who allegedly have allowed and tolerated illegal drugs and prostitutes inside the penitentiary.
Sniffing drugs
When Oscar Calderon was BuCor director, many prisoners were caught sniffing shabu inside convicted killer Rolito Go’s cell at the maximum security area.
Go who was sentenced to jail over 10 years ago by a local court was once kicked out of the NBP and transported to a penal colony in Leyte during the time of then-BuCor chief Dionisio Santiago.
The move was made after other inmates and NBP employees petitioned for his transfer but he was returned to the penitentiary in early 2008 and allegedly has since gone back to his old activities.
Prisoners had also been caught in possession of shabu and cell phones in a surprise inspection made by prison authorities.
NBP rules prohibit inmates from possessing cell phones.
Fortunato Justo, the custodian designated to keep an eye on Leviste, was grilled by a five-man Justice department panel on the second day of the fact-finding probe of the vacation taken by the former governor.
Justo admitted to committing lapses in monitoring Leviste, a “sleep-out” inmate, particularly last week when the former governor went to the dentist.
Prisoners at the minimum security area are granted “living-out” status if they are about to complete the service of their sentences or they are above 70 years old.
These prisoners can roam the NBP compound during daytime in order to help them reintegrate into society.
In contrast, the sleep-out inmates can spend the night in private homes inside the prison compound but away from prison cells at the minimum security area.
At the Senate, the chairman of the committee on revision of laws also on Tuesday said that she will ask the Justice department to send her a study paper on the feasibility of a “pay-to-stay” program in national jails that should be made available only to convicts sentenced for non-violent crimes.
“We need to change existing laws, to separate maximum security from minimum security prisoners. Minimum security prisoners should be allowed to apply for a pay-to-stay program, if they are willing to pay hotel rates,” Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago told Senate reporters during an interview.
Santiago said that such program was observed in the United States penal system, allowing wealthy prisoners to be housed separately from other inmates, provided that they pay hotel rates.
Under the American program, prisoners are allowed private cells, work release programs, Ipods, mobile phones and computers.
The senator said that pay-to-stay programs were implemented in most cities in California and were being considered for implementation in New York and Massachusetts.
Santiago added that the law that she proposes would not apply to Leviste because he was convicted of a violent crime.
With report from Sammy Martin

EDITORIAL OF MANILA TIMES (MAY 28, 2011)

Prison reform now
THE more the public hears from prisons Director Ernesto Diokno, the more convinced we are that he should be fired. We regret that Palace officials are urging Director Diokno to resign so as to spare his friend, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino 3rd, from having to make a tough decision. The Palace statement only reinforces the suspicion that President Aquino’s idea of good governance exempts his friends and political allies.
Earlier, Director Diokno took a leave of absence from the Bureau of Corrections following the uproar over the arrest in Makati City of former Batangas Gov. Tony Leviste. He was supposed to be serving time for the murder of his friend, not roaming around the metropolis.
The director faced an investigation, during which he argued that he was not at fault. As if insulting the intelligence of the investigators and of the public, Director Diokno said that his duties were mainly policymaking, and as such, he should be spared from punishment because command responsibility does not apply to him in this case.
The embattled director went on to tell the investigating panel that he merely inherited a faulty system at the national penitentiary, referring to the policy allowing wealthy inmates to construct huts with modern amenities. Those inmates presumably stay there instead of their cells, but as the case of Mr. Leviste shows, the privileges apparently include furloughs.
To be fair, the government should be credited for arresting Mr. Leviste and for exposing the serious problems at the national penitentiary—apparently including a thriving illegal drug business inside the prison compound. Plus, we commend the Department of Justice for conducting the probe with urgency and transparency. It is to submit to the President today a report on in its findings.
Unlike what Palace spin doctors have been saying, however, the next move should be the President’s, not Director Diokno’s. Will the President have the courage to do what is right and apply the standards of good governance to his friends and allies? The President did not do so when his friend and political ally, Interior Undersecretary Ricardo Puno, was among those blamed for bungling a hostage crisis that led to a diplomatic row with China. But people may have forgotten that already.
The President did not fire another friend whom he appointed at the Land Transportation Office (LTO). That agency’s chief, Virginia Torres, was forced to go on leave for two months since mid-April after an intra-corporate dispute at Stradcom Corp. interrupted the agency’s services to the public. Stradcom is LTO’s computer systems provider. But many people may have forgotten about this also.
Will people forget about Director Diokno, as well? Perhaps people will eventually, but not before the President’s lack for decisiveness and resolve take their toll on his already sliding popularity. And if his popularity worsens more, the President might not only find it harder to govern. He will lose the moral high ground and credibility in fighting graft and corruption for the rest of his term.
As the President himself said repeatedly during the campaign— if there is no corruption, there is no poverty. Hope for positive change, it seems, is fading unless President Aquino can show that no one is above the law.
Short-term: Inventory of prisoners
The law clearly spells out the duties of Director Diokno, and it does not say that his responsibilities are limited to policymaking. And if the director does not see what is apparently wrong with some inmates buying privilege and special treatment, then he is not someone the President should trust with responsibility and with reforming the penal and prisons management part of governance.
Besides immediately firing Director Diokno, the authorities should conduct a headcount of prisoners. Many others have said this since the scandal broke, but we have yet to hear this being done. Instead, there have been reports that other high-profile inmates, like Rolito Go, have enjoyed unauthorized furloughs. Worse, there are concerns that other well-off inmates, like drug lords, may have fled the country.
One gets the impression that getting a headcount is difficult because some privileged inmates have to be rounded up, because they are roaming the around the compound—presumably not outside the walls. In that regard, the prison authorities should seriously consider having one system for all inmates, regardless of their socioeconomic background. Is it really that hard to count inmates in a prison?
Some say that you can judge a country by how it treats its prisoners. Unless policies are changed, some could find proof that two sets of laws exist in the Philippines. One is for the rich, another for the poor.
Long-term: Review law, facilities
Looking ahead, we urge Congress to conduct an investigation in aid of legislation into this. Also, there is at least one bill on prison reform pending in Congress, and it might be worth revisiting. Now is the time to review the penal system.
Media reports give a general impression that conditions in our prisons and jails are inhumane, that prisons are over-crowded and filthy. We should remember that the aims of incarceration include rehabilitation of criminals, not just punishment. And the government itself is violating our laws when convicts are condemned to inhumane and potentially life-threatening conditions.
Granted, congressional inquiries in aid of legislation tend to do more to boost the political stock of lawmakers through media exposure than help them craft effective and meaningful legislation. But that is the process. And we hope that President Aquino can provide the leadership needed to prod his House and Senate allies to steer such an important legislation through Congress.
Then again, he also has to show leadership—and backbone—to do the right thing in the case of Director Diokno. He has to go, definitely. And the manner by which he goes is equally important, especially if President Aquino is to maintain the image that he means business. Otherwise, more people might take the President less seriously when it comes to fighting graft and corruption.

Diokno blames all but self
‘Special privileges’ least of his concerns

Bureau of Corrections Director Ernesto Diokno discusses a portion of a jail manual with New Bilibid Prisons chief Ramon Reyes before the start of a probe of alleged escapades from jail of former Gov. Jose Antonio Leviste of Batangas.PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN
BY JOMAR CANLAS REPORTER
THE buck stops with all other bureaucrats, certainly not with him.
In blaming everybody but himself over the recent fiasco that was the Leviste caper, Director Ernesto Diokno of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) on Wednesday said that he had other and presumably more important things on his mind when that stunt was pulled off by a homicide convict.
The Bucor chief said that the “special privileges” given to some inmates of the National Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila) were not his main concern but the drug problem there that he added led to the recent death of one of his deputies.
“Hindi ko po ‘yan nadaanan masyado dahil ang aking drive ngayon ay yung drug problem dahil napatay ang isang opisyal ko (I did not go through those because my drive now is against the drug problem because one of my officials was killed over that problem),” Diokno told a five-man panel from the Department of Justice (DOJ), referring to the BuCor policies of allowing prisoners to “sleep out” and to “live out” of the NBP, the national penitentiary.
The official was BuCor Assistant Director Rodrigo Mercado.
Diokno’s priorities apparently gave former Gov. Jose Antonio Leviste of Batangas the opportunity to get out of the NBP to visit his dentist without official authorization on May 18.
He also told the DOJ panel that he should not be held liable for the “vacation” taken by Leviste.
‘Policy-making’ only
“Hindi naman ako obligado na magbantay sa kanila. Policy-making lang po ako (I am not obliged to guard them. I am only concerned with policy-making),” according to the BuCor chief.
Stretching his defense, Diokno said, “The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, if there is an escape, for example, in Quezon City, it is the warden who should take the blame, not the director.”
According to him, he just took off where his predecessors left off.
“Those policies (‘sleeping out’ and ‘living out’) are already there. I cannot just change (them) because we are following the restorative model of justice or reformation. Our actions cannot be punitive,” Diokno further told the DOJ panel investigating the Leviste incident.
While admitting that he was aware of the special privileges granted to some inmates, particularly the one allowing the prisoners to stay in nipa huts outside the minimum security area of the national penitentiary, he said that his attention was focused on the drug problem.
Since he was appointed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd to head BuCor on October 11, 2010, Diokno added, he began inspecting the NBP and penal colonies in the country.
During the inspections, he said, he noticed irregularities that prompted him to issue policy memorandum orders to his deputies.
“I also met with the Council of Elders, or the VIP inmates who were consultants to various gangs inside the penitentiary and who included Gov. Leviste,” Diokno added.
“Sinabihan ko sila nung unang command conference namin na may nababalitaan ako na lumalabas sa kanila. Sinabihan ko na yung mga lumalabas na hindi pwede sa akin ‘yun dahil ipahuhuli ko kayo at kakasuhan (I told them during our first command conference that I had heard that some of them were going out of the NBP. I also told those who were stepping out that that was not okay with me because I will have them arrested to face charges),” he also told the DOJ panel.
Sleeping-out prisoners are allowed to roam NBP reservation camps and stay in their own huts that they themselves built there.
Living-out inmates are those held at the minimum security area and who are allowed to wander around there but required to return to their cells at night.
The DOJ panel is expected to submit its recommendation later this week to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
Headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Dacanay, its members are Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Ma. Emilia Victorio, DOJ State Counsels Wilberto Tolitol and Charlene Mae Tapic and Deputy Director Ruel Lasala of the Intelligence Services of the National Bureau of Investigation.
Spot checks or surprise inspections could have prevented the Leviste caper, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said also on Wednesday.
Always possible
Special treatment of some prisoners that according to Robredo was always possible could be discouraged through the unannounced visits to cells.
“I am in favor of unannounced jail visitation because it is the only time I can see the real situation inside these facilities, how the inmates are treated and how jail personnel perform,” he said.
He cited as example a request of relatives of victims of the Maguindano massacre to check on members of the Ampatuan political clan who are detained at Camp Bagoing Diwa in Taguig City (Metro Manila) and facing multiple-murder charges.
The relatives of the massacre victims raised their concern about possibly special treatment being given to clan members the way it went Leviste’s way.
According to them, the former governor was able to do it because he has money and members of the Ampatuan family could also receive special privileges because they too have resources to pay for them.
JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA AND CLAIRE CAPUL
HEADLINE IN MALAYA NEWSPAPER (MAY 28, 2011)

Massive NBP revamp urged

DOJ probers eye admin, criminal charges
BY EVANGELINE DE VERA
A PANEL from the Department of Justice investigating irregularities at the National Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa will recommend to President Aquino the “total overhaul” of the security system, including the replacement of jail guards and officers of the NBP.
The six-man DOJ panel is expected to submit to Aquino today its two-pronged report, one recommending the filing of administrative and criminal cases against custodial guards, prisons superintendents, and even Bureau of Corrections Director Ernesto Diokno (on leave) in connection with the grant of special privileges to high-profile inmates like former Batangas Gov. Antonio Leviste, who was arrested on May 18 in Makati City.
The second part of the report will be about reforms that should be instituted to prevent incidents similar to Leviste’s unauthorized trip outside the penitentiary.
Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, supervising officer of the panel and officer in charge of the BuCor, yesterday said in a press briefing that among the recommendations of the panel would be the reshuffle or reassignment, retraining, and reorientation of prison guards and other ranking NBP officers, and to inculcate professionalism in their ranks.
“The report could go up to the level of the BuCor director. On how strong, how sufficiently established their liabilities, that would still be determined by the panel. Our report will just guide the President. We will recommend a total overhaul of the systems in the NBP,” he said.
During the three-day marathon hearings that ended Wednesday, the fact-finding panel found that jail officers were remiss in their duties, enabling Leviste and other inmates to abuse the special privileges extended to them.
Another option that the panel is looking at is the tapping of members of the Army to help provide security around the NBP premises.
Baraan said the fate of Diokno and his deputies lies with the President, who has complete supervisory jurisdiction over them, being presidential appointees. On the other hand, the DOJ will exercise disciplinary power over the jail guards and custodians.
He said the DOJ will also study how to address the congestion problem at the maximum and minimum security compounds of the NBP and other prison facilities, and submit recommendations to the President.
Meanwhile, Baraan also said he has recommended to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima the cancellation of all the “sleep-out” privileges as these are often subject to abuse especially by so-called VIP inmates.
Leviste, who is serving a 12-year sentence for the killing of his business aide in January 2007, is among those given “sleeping out” status by the NBP because of his advanced age at 70, and special skills on account of his “Plant a Billion Trees” project at the NBP, which he funded.
Baraan said the DOJ might regulate the number of inmates at the minimum security camp applying for the grant of such privileges.
“I have a memo for the secretary which prohibits the automatic grant of ‘live-out’ or ‘sleep-out’ status to inmates who are classified as minimum security inmates. They (NBP) are making it automatic, when the ‘live out’ status should be reserved for those who are serving only one year or less of their sentences,” he said.
The DOJ earlier defined the “sleep out” inmates as those who may sleep in private houses within the prison compound but away from the prison cell at the minimum security compound where most of the inmates are.
On the other hand, “living-in” inmates are those who can roam the NBP compound during daytime as part of BuCor’s program to help them reintegrate into society, with just a year or two of their sentence left unserved.
At the time of his arrest, Leviste was a recipient of both privileges. He had his own nipa hut inside the NBP compound. He was transferred to maximum security after his arrest on May 18 in front of his building in Makati City.

Prison privileges
Philippine Daily Inquirer
9:46 pm | Friday, June 3rd, 2011
In the wake of former Batangas Governor Jose Antonio Leviste’s startling arrest in the middle of posh Makati when he should have been languishing in his prison cell, it has become known that the homicide convict wasn’t the only prisoner enjoying “living out” and “sleeping out” privileges at the New Bilibid Prison. The NBP chief, Supt. Ramon Reyes, told the Congress committee investigating the Leviste incident that 109 and 419 inmates were given the two privileges, respectively, before all these were cancelled after Leviste’s caper.

The blanket cancellation, while seemingly the right thing to do under the circumstances, might also prove to be a case of overreaction and overcompensation, akin to burning the house down while trying to catch a mouse. There is no question that wealthy inmates like Leviste have managed to abuse the system possibly by buying for themselves more comfortable arrangements within the notoriously congested and derelict prison compound. There is little doubt, too, that such arrangements are the result of the corrupt connivance of prison officials and guards, who are paid to look the other way while well-off prisoners flout the rules and live it up in ways otherwise denied their poor, powerless co-prisoners.

But lest we forget: The “living out” arrangement, while not codified in the Bureau of Corrections operations manual and eventually degraded by specific cases such as Leviste’s, had a good, practical aim. It was extended to inmates who were about to complete their sentence, suffering from illness, or over 70 years old. Those classified as “living out” were allowed to leave their prison cells and move around the NBP compound starting at 6 a.m., but had to report to their custodians, who must then account for their presence, at 6 p.m. of the same day.

Done correctly, allowing a convict to “live out” this way was a humane gesture. It not only helped decongest packed jail quarters, it also gave deserving inmates a chance to slowly reintegrate themselves into freer surroundings, get back their bearings before rejoining a world that must now look terrifyingly strange to them. As President Aquino himself explained, “the ‘living out’ privilege is given if the convict is in the transition period – he is set to return to society because he is about to be pardoned or paroled.”

Which was not the case with Leviste, certainly, who was granted not only the “living out” privilege not even halfway through his six to 12-year sentence, but was also allowed to “sleep out” in a hut inside the prison compound, furnished with appliances and amenities, that he was said to have purchased from an ex-convict. Scrapping this privilege is the right thing to do. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima should be supported in her plan to demolish the huts and strip rich inmates of their perks and gadgets, as these only highlight how money and social status continue to subvert basic justice even in the supposedly classless confines of the penitentiary.

However, prisoners who have neither cash nor influence but who have earned their “living out” status solely through good behavior or their having served out most of their sentence should not be summarily punished along with the likes of Leviste. That is also being unjust. Again, lest we forget, the country’s prison system is the pits – or as Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago described it, it’s “completely miserable, overcrowded, stinky, filthy.” The Department of Interior and Local Government admitted as much in its 2009 request for a budget upgrade. “Inmates are now packed in the most primitive and inhuman conditions, causing death from diseases and jail disturbances.” At present, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology oversees some 1,000 jails across the country, with more than 60,000 inmates in them, 32,000 in the NBP alone.

Any prisoner who has gone through the hellhole of a Philippine jail with reasonably good behavior on his side and the prospect of completing his sentence soon should be allowed the incentive of breathing in the hope and promise of a fresh start outside the fetid air of his near-uninhabitable, overpopulated cell. Last we checked, rehabilitation, not cruelty, remains the aim of the country’s penal system. Reform it, improve security, tighten restrictions, build more facilities – all toward making the system more reformatory than plain punitive. The “can of worms” opened up by Leviste’s stunt reflects as badly on the society that has allowed such a squalid state of affairs to fester unattended.

‘Aquino for moving Bilibid inmates to Iwahig’
Philippine Daily Inquirer
6:03 am | Monday, June 6th, 2011

As a short term and immediate solution to the problem of overcrowding at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, President Benigno Aquino III is considering the transfer of inmates to the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Puerto Princesa City, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said.
“The President sees Iwahig as the most feasible site that could have short-term results. We need only to improve or enhance the perimeter fences or enclosures of Iwahig and put up additional facilities, buildings, structures to house additional inmates,” she told reporters in a recent interview.
She said the President wanted “immediate steps” taken to address the congestion, which he considers “one of the most severe problems” at the NBP. The prison, according to De Lima, has more than 17,000 inmates, double its intended capacity.
The secretary said the project will start as soon as the executive branch provides funds for the inmates’ transfer.
Set up by the Americans in 1904, the Iwahig penal complex is located on a 37–hectare property in the southern part of Puerto Princesa. It has farms and orchards irrigated by a river and cultivated by the prisoners.
There are about 4,000 inmates at Iwahig, most of whom are not locked up. Their families are also allowed to live with the prisoners in some settlements.
The prison farm and parks, as well as its American-era buildings, have become a tourist attraction. Visitors can go fishing, firefly–watching and shopping at souvenir shops selling handicraft made by the prisoners.Jerome Aning

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About vjtesoro

A perpetual student of Corrections

Posted on June 5, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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