Witness recounts 'paying' for early prison release of her husband

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 5)— A witness on Thursday revealed alleged corruption in the implementation of the Good Conduct Time Allowance law, claiming that some Bureau of Corrections officials tried to “sell” her inmate husband’s early release.

Yolanda Camelon, who surfaced during the Senate hearing into the controversial policy, claimed she paid BuCor personnel ₱50,000 in in three installments last February for the release of her husband who is detained at the New Bilibid Prison.

She said a certain Senior Inspector Mabel Bansil claimed ₱40,000 in two of the installments, with the first ₱10,000 being paid to Ramoncito "Chito" Roque, identified as the Documents Processing Section chief of the bureau.

She said she gave the money to Ramoncito "Chito" Roque, identified as the Documents Processing Section chief of the bureau, back in February.

Meron po kasing empleyado na lumapit sa akin, Major Mabel Bansil. Nag-approach siya sa akin kung gusto kong mapalaya ang asawa ko agad agad. Para ma-shorten ang service of sentence niya. Siyempre po, in my part, gusto ko po talaga,” Camelon said.

[Translation: There was an employee who approached me, Major Mabel Bansil. She asked if I wanted my husband to be freed quickly. So that his service of sentence can be shortened. Of course on my part I really wanted that]

Sabi ko, in what way ma'am? 'Yung nga lang, magastos. Paano po yung gastos na yun? Meron siyang binanggit na certain amount, 50,000. Sabi ko sa kanya, paano po ba ang sistema natin diyan?

[Translation: I said, in what way ma'am. (She said) The only thing is it will be expensive. (I said) What will be the expense? She mentioned a certain amount, ₱50,000. I told her, how does the system work?]

After the amount was set, Camelon said the parties agreed her husband would be released in March 2019. The deal, however, did not push through, as she was referred to another BuCor official, Ruperto Traya. Traya was shot dead by unknown assailants on Aug. 27 in Muntinlupa.

Aside from Traya, Camelon also admitted to dealing with another BuCor official named Veronica Buno.

Dumating yung usapan namin March 1, Ma'am ano na po nangyari doon sa usapan natin? Sabi, hindi na kaya ni Sir kasi maraming pinalalaya ngayon na kailangang palayain, marami silang trabaho,” Camelon said.

[Translation: When the agreed time came on March 1, I asked 'ma'am what happened to our agreement? She said Sir cannot do it because they are releasing a lot of inmates now, they have a lot of work]

Camelon said the date of her husband's release was pushed back to June and then to October.

Roque claimed he returned the money to Camelon a few days after receiving it in February. However, Camelon said she never she got back the money despite her demands for its return.

This prompted Camelon to demand for a refund — a move which Bansil attempted to stop.

Roque claimed he returned the money to Camelon a few days after receiving it in February. However, Camelon said she never got her money back.

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Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chair Richard “Dick” Gordon questioned why it took Roque days to return the money, when he could have arrested Camelon and Bansil for attempting to bribe him.

Roque said this did not immediately occur to him as he had a lot on his mind at the time.

Sacked BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon was unable to contain his dismay over the revelation.

"Gusto kong maiyak kasi I work hard every day to try to fix that bureau. Gusto kong maiyak sa galit," Faeldon told reporters after the hearing. "Ang tingin ko dun, masahol pa yan sa heinous crime ... Kahit maliit na pera, o malaki,' yung hinihingan nila ng pera, mga preso. They are the lowest member of our society tapos aapihin mo pa ng ganyan? Dapat diyan bitayin ng paulit-ulit, yung mga ganyan na tao.

[Translation: I want to cry because I work hard every day to try to fix that bureau. I want to cry out of anger ... I think that's worse than a heinous crime ... Regardless of the amount, the ones they are trying to get money from are prisoners. They are the lowest members of our society and then you will abuse them like this? People like them should be repeatedly executed.]

The Office of the Ombudsman earlier in the day ordered an investigation of BuCor officials linked to the early release of heinous crime convicts.

READ: Over 1,900 heinous crime convicts released through good conduct law – BuCor

The government in August temporarily suspended the processing of papers for GCTA, a provision in the Revised Penal Code which shortens jail time for good behavior, pending a review by the Justice and Interior departments.

The GCTA has grabbed headlines in light of the foiled early release of former Laguna town Mayor Antonio Sanchez. The Justice Department has maintained that Sanchez’ rape-slay case is not covered by the GCTA because those charged with heinous crime are excluded in the law.

The committee is expected to present one more witness on the GCTA for sale issue when it resumes the hearing on Monday.

CNN Philippines’ Alyssa Rola, Paolo Barcelon, Xave Gregorio and Pia Garcia contributed to this report.