MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Panfilo Lacson wants doctors from the New Bilibid Prison hospital to appear in the Senate inquiry into irregularities at the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) amid allegations that inmates pay up to P2 million for passes so they can stay in the infirmary and do business there.
Among those inmates are convicted drug traffickers still running their narcotics trade, according to Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go.
Lacson said on Tuesday that he would request Sen. Richard Gordon, who heads the inquiry, to summon the doctors.
He said his office had received reports that the payment for hospital passes ranged from P200,000 to P2 million.
The amount was supposedly on top of the P30,000 per day “board and lodging” fee, he said.
“These won’t happen if no doctor would certify [the inmate]. So we need to find out what is the flow of communication once an inmate . . . request[s] confinement in the [Bilibid] hospital,” Lacson told reporters.
He said he wanted to get the hospital records to determine who the perennial patients in the hospital were, how long they stayed there, and the diagnoses for their illnesses.
Lacson said the hospital passes could be in demand because the environment in the infirmary was less restricted.
Go said he got a report from a “high-profile” inmate about the hospital pass racket, and had asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate.
He said that according to his information, convicted drug lords were paying for the hospital passes.
Eight of them were supposedly using one room in the prison hospital for doing business, he said.
“Most of these illegal drug transactions take place in Medical Ward 3, Medical Annex in Building 14,” he said.
The inmates are apparently in conspiracy with the hospital staff, he added.
Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, who served as BuCor chief from April to October 2018, on Tuesday said he had been suspicious of inmates who had been staying at the Bilibid hospital for a long time.
Dela Rosa said he had questioned the lengthy hospital stay of Amin Boratong, convicted of running a “shabu” (crystal meth) bazaar in Pasig City, and of Raymond Dominguez, a convicted carjacker who was also accused of murder.
He told reporters that he had ordered the return of these inmates to Building 14, and directed the doctors to treat them in0 their cells instead.
“They were able to show a medical bulletin, but a doctor could issue this for them if he is in connivance with their syndicate,” he added.
Dela Rosa said he had received a lot of information about the irregularity, but had been unable to find evidence.
“All I had were doubts. They were too careful,” he said.
Dela Rosa also said the inmates had sought to stay in the hospital not really for the comfort of it, but “for the accessibility in the conduct of their illegal business, particularly drug trade.”
It was difficult to bar other people from visiting them as hospitals were supposed to be patient-friendly, he said.
Dela Rosa also said he had not been involved in any irregularity when he was head of the BuCor.
He said he was willing not just to be slapped, but to be shot, if shown to have taken part in corruption in the bureau.
The Senate is looking into the BuCor’s application of Republic Act No. 10592, the good conduct time allowance law, that has led to the release of more than 2,000 heinous crime convicts.
The inquiry has been triggered by the aborted release of Antonio Sanchez, a former mayor of Calauan, Laguna province, who was convicted of raping and killing Eileen Sarmenta, a student of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, and killing her friend Allan Gomez.
The investigation has expanded to include allegations that prisoners can regain their freedom early by buying good conduct credit from corrupt BuCor officials and employees.
The Ombudsman has suspended 30 officials and employees of the BuCor as it begins its own investigation of corruption in the agency.
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