Press Release
September 24, 2019

Bong Go appeals to DOJ to prioritize release of sick and aging inmates

Senator Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prioritize the release of inmates on account of age, poor health condition and actual service in prison taking into consideration the existing laws.

Go, during the Senate hearing on DOJ's proposed 2020 budget on Monday, September 23, read a letter he wrote addressed to DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra on behalf of the inmates.

The letter stated, "Sumusulat po ako sa inyong tanggapan upang humingi ng inyong tulong at konsiderasyon. Umaapela po ako sa inyo sa ngalan ng mga presong kasalukuyang nakakulong sa New Bilibid Prison na matanda na at may karamdaman."

"Personal ko pong nasaksihan ang kanilang kalagayan at pagdurusa. Hiling ko po sana palayain na sila alinsunod sa ating Saligang Batas upang kahit man lang sa kanilang natitirang araw dito sa mundong ito ay makasama nila ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay."

Go saw the situation of the inmates when he visited NBP in Muntinlupa City on September 9 to verify reports that prison officials are involved in selling Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) and hospital passes to persons deprived of liberty (PDLs).

The Senate has been conducting an inquiry on the allegations that inmates who can afford to bribe officials are given priority in the computation of GCTA, even if such inmates are not qualified or have committed violations while inside the prison.

Go has been openly objecting to the unfair and illegal practice. "Nakita ko rin... mas maraming matatanda sa minimum security pero mayroon po akong tanong, bakit mas naunang nakakalaya ang mga nasa maximum? Marami doon naka whelchair baka di na aabot sa kanilang kalayaan, mamatay na sila. Ang tanong ko bakit unang nakakalaya ang nasa maximum kaysa doon sa minimum, dahil ba mayaman sila o talagang mayroong sumasakay dito?" he asked during the discussions on the GCTA controversy in one of the Senate hearings.

At the budget hearing on Monday, the Senator supported the proposed budget of the DOJ so that the agency can overhaul NBP. "I fully commit my support to the measures and initiatives of Secretary Guevarra towards a corruption-free DOJ," he said.

"The Department of Justice plays several crucial roles in the bureaucracy. Aside from prosecuting offenders, it also administers and manages our correctional facilities. To serve its purpose, it has to be firm, steadfast, and efficient," he explained.

The 2020 budget of DOJ and its attached agencies amounts to P21.7 billion, higher by 0.68% than their P21.6 billion budget in 2019.

The budget of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), which is part of the DOJ's budget, includes P478.6 million for the acquisition of high-tech equipment in the fight against criminality and illegal drugs inside the National Bilibid Prison.

Go expressed his support to the efforts to reform BuCor and enhance its capabilities amid recent controversies in the bureau. "As I have stated multiple times before, corruption and criminality have no place in this administration. I join the calls of my fellow Senators to overhaul and revamp the Bureau of Corrections. And we will start by making good our commitment to the DOJ to provide (it) with enough funds to acquire high-tech equipment for the BuCor and to construct a separate penal facility for convicts involved in heinous crimes," he said.

"Lahat na lang ng bawal at ayaw natin dito sa labas ay nandoon na sa loob ng Bilibid---illegal drugs, corruption, criminality. I reiterate my call to the DOJ and the National Prosecution Service. Let us do our sworn duties," Go added.

Go said that while he supports the initiatives to reform BuCor, those proven to be involved in anomalies should be held accountable.

"Kung may kailangan imbestigahan, imbestigahan natin. Kung may kailangan kasuhan, kasuhan natin. Kung may kailangan makulong, ipakulong natin. Dapat managot ang dapat managot," he said.

At the end of the hearing, the Senate Committee on Finance, of which Go is the vice chair, approved the budget of the DOJ and its attached agencies.

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