The Philippine Star
May 29, 2011
MANILA, Philippines – The fact-finding panel created to investigate the unauthorized vacation outside prison of convict Jose Antonio Leviste would be naming several personalities involved in the former governor’s caper.
Department of Justice (DOJ) Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, chairman of the investigating panel, said they would include several names in their report that would be submitted to President Aquino tomorrow.
“We will name names,” Baraan said. “We will be finishing the report within the day (yesterday). And it will be reviewed by the Justice secretary (Leila de Lima) by Sunday (today). We expect it to be on the table of President Aquino by Monday.”
Baraan declined to reveal the names of those who could be implicated in the caper.
As to the possible liability of Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) director Ernesto Diokno, Baraan also refused to say what sanctions await the prisons chief but said his name would be included in the report.
Aquino had directed De Lima to submit a report over the unauthorized vacation of Leviste.
The DOJ then created a fact-finding panel to investigate why Leviste was able to slip out of prison without authorization or court order.
The investigation later uncovered supposed special privileges given to a select group of prisoners, among them Leviste who was allowed to be a living out prisoner.
Diokno was then forced to take a leave of absence to allow the investigation over allegations of incompetence and violation in the implementation of prison rules, particularly in the case of Leviste.
De Lima has assigned Parole and Probation Administration chief Manuel Co to take over BuCor while Diokno is on leave.
Baraan said the report would also contain their recommendations, including possible administrative and criminal liability of the people involved in the caper.
Baraan said the investigation focused on the laxity of prison officials, which may explain how Leviste got out of prison undetected.
Aquino sternly ordered a thorough investigation over the allegations of granting certain prisoners privileges inside jail.
Upon his arrival from Thailand on a state visit, Aquino yesterday revealed the DOJ was in the final stages of finishing the report over the Leviste caper.
He said that according preferential treatment to certain prisoners was not a policy of his administration and he would want to get to the bottom of the incident.
Aquino also took note of the reports that the Ampatuans, accused in the Maguindanao massacre, were also given preferential treatment while in detention at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.
The President said allowing such kind of preferential treatment for certain prisoners would not be tolerated.
“Obviously that is not the policy of this administration. But at the same time, we will not act or react on the statement of anybody, there has to be rule of law, there has to be due process,” Aquino told reporters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Centennial Terminal 2 right after meeting members of his Cabinet.
Aquino on Friday ordered Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo to initiate the process of cleaning up the country’s penal system.
Robredo began the effort by ordering the relief of the jail warden in custody of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., one of the principal accused in the Maguindanao massacre.
Ampatuan was allegedly shown in a video and photographs using a cell phone inside the jail as well as walking in and out of detention.
Robredo then tasked Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno to head the investigation into the allegations.
“Once the investigation is completed they will settle once and for all whether the Ampatuans did receive special treatment or not,” Aquino said.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan hailed Aquino’s decision to overhaul the country’s penal system in the wake of the scandals involving certain high profile prisoners.
“Clearly there is something terribly wrong with the existing set-up and the reassignment or removal of a few personnel will not solve the problem,” Pangilinan said.
“This is not the time to employ band aid methods when what is clearly called for is sweeping top-to-bottom reforms,” he added.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile earlier called on the DOJ to relieve the prison officials involved in the Leviste caper.
If he had his way, Enrile said he would fire everyone in the BuCor because they allowed the special treatment of certain prisoners.
Enrile said this has been going on for a long time so there could not be any more excuses on the part of the BuCor.
Meanwhile, the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), an organization of former political prisoners, denounced the practice of granting special privileges to moneyed prisoners.
Bonifacio Ilagan, vice chairman of SELDA, said these cases are classic examples of the different treatment given to prisoners, especially to prisoners who are wealthy, as compared to the situation of the rest of the thousands of inmates. – With Aurea Calica, Marvin Sy
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