October 30, 2012. Davao Penal Colony. Cashier’s Office. 5AM. The early morning drizzle greeted the dawn, an auspicious day like any other. It was a lazy Tuesday. As it was his routine, the armorer went through his normal duty. He assumed as shift officer as armorer, got the keys to the main office and proceeded to open the main door and to close the lights. It has been like that for years, at least for those designated with such responsibility.
As the armorer went through the motion of entering the main building, he noticed something unusual. The first office one would note is the cashier because it serves the fiduciary function of the institution. The door of the office was left ajar. There were even tell-tale signs that it was forcibly opened.
The officer withdrew and called his fellow officers on what he discovered. The reinforcements immediately appeared and in a few seconds, the entire building was cordoned off. They believed that the office had been violated. There was a break in.
The municipal police was called and the station immediately dispatched a team of PNP SOCO (Scene of the crime operatives) in the area.
The cashier, the one in charge, on the other hand, who was earlier informed on the state of disarray of her office was speechless and was almost in shock. She had a day earlier issued the payroll to the employees and she had a few envelopes still left for distribution. The pay envelopes containing cash and loose change were still in her drawers outside of the vault. If indeed her office was ransacked, everything there would have been carted away, an easy pick. Every valuable outside the steel cabinet would be fair game.
That fateful day, the cashier’s office was meticulously rigged with a cordon. No one was supposed to trespass. It was veritable “no man’s land” until the police and the institution’s investigators would have concluded their crime analysis.
The joint team of police and Dapecol investigators scoured the area for tell tale signs. They snooped around for clues. They wanted to know where the robber passed through. They had sketches drawn to determine the exact steps the culprit took until they (assuming it is a group) reached the cashier’s room. There were mudded rubber shoe prints. But the prints yielded a similar pattern, an indication that it came from just one person.
The robber entered through plywood covered window of the conference room where adjacent to said facility is the office of the Superintendent. Said office however was by passed. Several offices leading to the cashier’s office were also ignored. The intention was mainly to get through the cashier’s office. But it was an amateur’s effort since the cashier had already given what was withdrawn as payroll for the personnel the day before. If at all something could be amassed, it would mainly be stacks of promissory notes!
Investigators noted that the door of the cashier’s office was forcibly opened. The padlock was broken. Inside the room, the drawers of the personnel were likewise unlocked, leaving the entire contents displayed. Although most of the things that were strewn were empty pay envelopes, a gallon full of bills and coins, intended as donation for the construction of the community chapel, was left atop the desk for the taking. On the further end of the desk was a stack of coins but which was scattered as a result of the attempted heist. Again, there was no indication that they would bag the coins since it was left behind sprawling on the floor.
According to the cashier when finally she calmed down and had began to conduct an inventory of her things, the check books, the vouchers, the unsigned checks, forms and related documents were in their proper places and undisturbed. The vault where cash and valuables were safely kept remained as it were, untouched and without any trace of disruption.
It has been surmised by the joint operation of investigators that the regular patrol team which conducted their on-site inspection may have unsettled the culprit forcing them to leave their nefarious mission in haste.
The cashier and personnel of the cashier’s office were tasked by Dapecol leadership to counter check and conduct an instant inventory of property and valuable items especially a cash count of their belongings both personal and official to arrive at the total picture of the incident. As a result of their findings, nothing has been vanished nor went missing. The gallon full of bills and coins were still there for endorsement to the church officials.
Be that as it may, there was still something that was robbed and which consequently has been lost in the process—it was the officers’ complacency.
Former Senator Ernesto M. Maceda in his September 1, 2012 column “Search for Truth” in Philippine Star wrote the following:
“HELL HOLE . . Bureau of Correction officials admitted before the House appropriations committee that 60-70 prisoners escape every year. Yes, that many.
Also admitted was the kidnapping of wealthy relatives of prisoners after visiting the inmates.
We wrote earlier that many prisoners are let out to do gun for hire murders and also, the P1-billion drug business operating from within NBP.
Grabe. This implies the presence of syndicates operating inside the NBP involving some prison officials.
A serious crackdown should be made on these activities. It’s a big black mark on the Department of Justice.”
Escapes like deaths in hospitals are inevitable. We blame hospitals if deaths occur as a result of negligence. In prisons, escapes occur, although a portion can be blamed for negligence but the rest are inextricably complicated. Most escapes come from the ranks of those prisoners who have served majority of the judicially prescribed time and whose sentences are about to be completed in a year’s time. There were even prisoners, waiting for a few days before receiving their discharged papers but would still escape! These are prisoners classified as Minimum Security Status and are eventually designated in areas where light security provision is applied as part of transition exposure from a highly institutional regimen to a lesser regime simulating free community condition. This is where escapes happen. The bulk or volume of this specific prison violation happen on this sector.
Cause of escape among minimum security prisoners has something to do with fear of being dragged into further controversy. Before a prisoner is to be released, he is oftentimes a recipient of bad news coming from his family and friends. Accordingly, he would receive information that his wife has “sumakabilang bahay na. (a pun on the term sumakabilang buhay)” At times, he would escape a creditor who pressing for immediate restitution of his loans may file a complaint and frustrate his release. These escapees are nowhere near the dangerous side. They have learned their lessons, they hated crime and they would rather retreat on the farthest side of the free community to live peacefully.
Escaping from maximum security facilities is an entirely different situation. Those who are classified under maximum security status must be treated with serious concern. If there will be escapes from this rank then there is something wrong somewhere. This is where an investigation should be conducted. Escape in the maximum security wing in prison is almost next to impossible. A maximum security prisoner may be missing, possibly grounded to a pulp and flashed in the toilet, buried somewhere in the garden or melted through smuggled acid but never to breach the multilayered fence with multi guarded gates. If a prisoner suddenly disappeared and successfully has broken out of the area into the free community—-like what happened with the recent escape of a maximum security prisoner Romel Laciste—then this should require a deeper probe on the qualification and competence of prison security administrators.
As for the kidnapping of inmates’ relatives, there is still an on-going probe on its basic linkages . If at all there is a connection, it is again in the failure of prison administration to annihilate gangs in the prison camp. Gangs supply the necessary details and information, the resources, the plans on how to mulct someone more so those whom they could observe inside. Gangs have the network, the muscle, influence, resources and the necessary bold front to conduct an abduction shake up. Gangs are emboldened to operate with tenacity if prison administration loses control of the prison camp. Any concession (or privilege) successfully haggled by gangs is an indication of failure to control by security administration.
As to the suspicion that gun-for-hire are drawn from prisoners who are allowed to do hit job is more imagined. This situation may probably be obtained in local jails especially in facilities run by local government but not in national prisons. Hence the need for a legislative policy to integrate all corrective institutions under one agency.
Drug operation by prisoners inside their respective dormitory is a creative endeavor that requires an equal amount of creativity among prison officers. Drug smugglers are a step ahead of law enforcers on the matter of distributing and circulating drugs in and out of the penal facility. Prison has as yet to catch up with technology and procuring the necessary gadgets to corner this malady. The most that could be done in this situation is to declare money inside prison as contraband. Without currency in circulation, where chips and coupons used, illegal drugs merchandise will fade.