Guevarra defends transfer of high-risk, high-profile inmates from Bilibid

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 6) — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said there is nothing wrong with the transfer of 10 high-risk and high-profile inmates, some of whom testified against Senator Leila de Lima, from the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City to the Marine barracks in Taguig City.

“Nothing irregular about that for as long as court approval is secured because sentenced prisoners na ‘yan. So any movement would have to be monitored by the court,” Guevarra told reporters Friday.

He said the transfer of inmates from the NBP to the Marine barracks is not special treatment, as this was done to secure the inmates who are witnesses in a case.

Pansamantala lang ito sa Marine barracks. Take note, mas secure ‘yung lugar na ‘yun kaya doon nga nilalagay. Hindi naman ito nilalagay sa isang first class na accommodation or something like that,” Guevarra said.

[Translation: They are just temporarily there at the Marine barracks. Take note, that place is more secure that’s why they are being placed there. They are not being placed in a first class accommodation or something like that.]

It is unclear whether a court order has been obtained for the transfer of the inmates to the Marine facility. Guevarra himself is clueless about this.

“I was just informed regarding the proposal. What happened afterwards — if the appropriate documentation was done or court approval was secured — I am not privy after that,” he said.

A document dated June 12 shows Faeldon approved to transfer 10 high-risk and high-profile inmates from the NBP’s maximum security compound, also known as Building 14, to the Marine barracks.

De Lima dismissed the security threat against the inmates who testified against her as "baloney" and "hilarious."

"I strongly suspect that the real reason [for their transfer] is for my oppressors to further 'operate' on these convicts-witnesses, i.e., to further coach and coerce or pressure them to stick to their perjured testimonies," she said in a handwritten letter from her detention cell in Camp Crame.

Among them were Peter Co, Hans Anton Tan, Jojo Baligad, Vicente Sy, Froilan Trestiza, Nonilo Arile and Joel Capones, who all testified against De Lima.

Other inmates transferred to the Marine barracks are Chua Che Ket, Rico Caja and Allan Senogat.

Guevarra’s view differs from that of sacked Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director-General Nicanor Faeldon, who approved the transfer of the 10 inmates from the NBP to the Philippine Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.

Faeldon said there is no need for a court order as the Marine facilities are considered as extensions of BuCor facilities under an agreement between the Justice and Defense departments.

He also said the transfer of the inmates from NBP to the Marines facility is legal, citing Republic Act 10575 which allows the BuCor to coordinate with the Armed Forces and the police for detention facilities

CNN Philippines research shows the law only states that the BuCor will conduct a feasibility study on the establishment of a Philippine Corrections Academy, patterned after the Philippine National Police Academy and the Philippine Military Academy.

Probe on BuCor

All eyes are on the BuCor after controversy erupted on the expanded Good Conduct Time Allowance policy, which reports said could have freed former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who has been convicted for the rape-slay of a University of the Philippines – Los Baños (UPLB) student Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of her fellow UPLB student Allan Gomez.

Guevarra said the Justice department will also be conducting its own probe on the BuCor mess.

Duterte has since sacked Faeldon as BuCor chief as he disobeyed the president's orders on the release of inmates.

The Senate and the House are also investigating the expanded GCTA policy, which more than doubled the time allowance granted to prisoners for exhibiting good behavior.

The wife of a convict has told the Senate that some BuCor officials offered her GCTA credits for her husband’s early release in exchange for ₱50,000.

“I do not have the facts before me, but I tend to believe that that is a very real possibility,” Guevarra said.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.