I was directed to perform a task I have already done before. I was in charge of NBP twice in the past, in the early and mid 90s and lately would assume the same post all over again. It does not inspire excitement anymore. Truly, New Bilibid Prison (NBP) today is no longer the same years back.
As if the gods of controversy would tickle my senses to check my alertness, a simple routine in my first day (July 15, 2013) would be rocked with controversy that would even achieve a scale of national proportion! I was tasked to receive a recaptured fugitive. It would just be a basic Corrections 101 thing but one instance leads to another until finally, there was nothing to receive and worst, the fugitive I am suppose to collect was ambushed along the way to my institution.
The incident never stopped there. While public sympathy was nil on learning that a bona fide criminal perished in a gun fight, the way it was conducted was in a way too rough and too suspicious for comfort. And so a series and numerous investigations were carried out. National awareness of the incident was pushed as promoted by a vigilant media. Every Tom, Dick and Harry, I mean, every Juan, Pedro and Talpulano in the law enforcement pillar has to explain the puzzling incident which claimed the violent end of an incorrigible bank robber.
My office was not exempted from the brewing controversy. That is right. Had I obtained the fugitive from police jurisdiction since the person is an escapee and has to be returned back to prison to serve the remaining years of his sentence, there would have been no storm. I was made to explain how come my team did not receive a recaptured fugitive. The public was made to believe that my team was sleeping in the pancitan when things were moving. Worst, the world was even made to believe that my team has acquired the subject, the fugitive, and we bungled until the fugitive ended up in police custody ‘til kingdom come.
The real score is this. Recaptured fugitive (and now deceased) Ricky Cadavero still has a pending case as yet for inquest proceedings. This is for Illegal Possession of Firearms and Explosives filed by arresting police in Calabarzon. It is therefore incumbent for them to file the case against the suspect before he can be moved to another criminal justice processing. This is the theme, which the police authorities applied why they did not submit the fugitive to be turned over yet to the NBP team that I headed during the Camp Crame PNP Press Conference.
And it is a correct position although there are other options available. Inquest proceedings may be held within NBP premises like court hearings conducted similarly within the prison facility. But police authorities have procedures, which they can invoke in the course of its law enforcement responsibilities.
If an escapee has been re-arrested by police authorities while at large, the rule is to turn the fugitive over to the national penitentiary. Or, the police may inform the Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) on the recovery of an escapee in cases where the police station is in a remote province. Once the identity of the fugitive has been determined, Bucor sends over a team to receive the fugitive, to be escorted back for re-admission into prison to serve the remaining part of his penalty including additional sentence for Evasion of Sentence. In the case of Cadavero, aside from the fact that he is a fugitive, he committed another offense for which he must be subjected for inquest proceedings first.
While there was a ruckus on the issue of receiving, or turning over of the fugitive, whether before or after the inquest is no longer the principal issue. The problem cropped out after the inquest while the police was about to turn over the fugitive to NBP. The succeeding procedure has been rendered incomplete because of the alleged ambush, which claimed the life of the fugitive. (Wags put it thus: In the morning, there was Cadavero; in the evening, he was a cadaver!)
The questionable incident brought forth more questions. It pushed law enforcement into an incredulous precipice. The integrity of the Philippine National Police once again was under the klieg lights of public scrutiny. As it tried to veer away from its unfortunate rank, per social survey, as the agency leading the most corrupt institutions a few weeks past, by recapturing a dreaded escapee, the law enforcement heroic deed overturned a few hours later with a perceived villainous act.
It was almost a national scandal. A sensational incident if you may. And I had my share of explanation to do. Despite my low key entrance in the controversial ridden post of the Bureau of Corrections, I was obliged to clarify our role in the whole spectrum of criminal justice administration in all media fronts.
What intrigued me however when my friends saw me on Television in prime news was not what I said, but on how I looked!