Friday, May 16, 2014

Police free up Crame jail for ‘VIP’ prisoners

By Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer

A one-hectare compound inside the Camp Crame
headquarters of the Philippine National Police may
just turn out to be the most star-studded prison
complex in the country. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—A one-hectare compound inside the Camp Crame headquarters of the Philippine National Police may just turn out to be the most star-studded prison complex in the country.

The PNP has begun reviewing the cases of more than 70 detainees who are locked up at the PNP Custodial Center in preparation for the possible arrest of lawmakers implicated in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

To free up some of the space in the jail compound for the VIP jailbirds, the PNP will be making a request to the appropriate courts for the immediate transfer of the 70 detainees to regular detention facilities, said a senior police official who asked not to be named for lack of authority to talk to the media.

The official said PNP Director General Alan Purisima had been asked to order police units that had arrested the detainees to submit the current status of the cases filed against them to the PNP Legal Service for review.

“We will ask the proper courts to allow us to bring some of the detainees to the regular jails so we can accommodate senators and other lawmakers who may be arrested for their role in the pork barrel scam,” the PNP official said.

Contingency plan

“As much as possible, we want to make available a decent detention center for the government officials. After all, they were elected by the people. But we will not give them any special treatment,” he added.

On Tuesday, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) said it was prepared to implement the arrest warrants for Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada should the Sandiganbayan order their arrest.

The three are only the first of several lawmakers facing plunder charges in connection with the alleged theft of billions of pesos in congressional pork barrel funds, or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which were allegedly funneled to the nongovernment organizations of detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles in exchange for substantial kickbacks to the erring legislators.

Director Benjamin Magalong, the CIDG chief, said his office had devised a contingency plan for the possible arrest of the lawmakers, stressing that such preparations are part of the CIDG’s normal law enforcement operations.

Originally built for erring members of the defunct Philippine Constabulary, the PNP Custodial Center now holds several prominent high-risk prisoners facing various criminal cases like rebellion, kidnapping, electoral fraud, robbery, murder and drug trafficking.

Detainees are usually housed in groups in detention rooms located in eight separate buildings within the compound.

They are separated according to the gravity of their offenses and the risk of their escaping from the facility.

Well-known detainees

Among the well-known detainees at the Custodial Center are former ranking police officials, including retired PNP Director General Avelino Razon Jr., former PNP Deputy Director Generals Geary Barias and Reynaldo Varilla, and former police directors Eliseo dela Paz and Charlemagne Alejandrino.

Last month, Communist Party of the Philippines leaders Benito Tiamzon and his wife, Wilma, were taken to the prison facility, along with five companions following their arrest in Cebu.

Sharing the detention facility with them are Supt. Hansel Marantan and nine other police officers facing charges for the killing of 13 people in Atimonan, Quezon, in January last year.

Former Maguindanao elections officer Lintang Bedol, who was implicated in the “Hello Garci” scandal, and suspected big-time Chinese drug lord Jackson Dy are also locked up in the prison complex.

A former policeman, Rizal Alih, is the longest detainee at the complex, serving out a sentence for the the killing of two senior Army officers during the 1989 siege of Camp Cawa-Cawa in Zamboanga City.

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