By JONATHAN HICAP
Newly appointed Bureau of Corrections Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa faced suspected drug lords on his first day in office yesterday, telling them to immediately stop their criminal activities or accept consequences.
Dela Rosa attended his first flag ceremony at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa and was welcomed by BuCor officials and employees and members of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police, who are supervising the security of the prison facility.
The new BuCor chief, who holds the rank of undersecretary, went to Building 14, a heavily guarded adjacent building of the NBP maximum security compound that houses 60 high-profile inmates including Jaybee Niño Sebastian, Sam Lee Chua, Peter Co, Jojo Baligad and Hans Tan.
Sixteen of them are serving drug sentences while others were convicted of other crimes including kidnapping for ransom and robbery.
Dela Rosa told the high-profile prisoners that he was sent to BuCor by President Duterte to stop the problem of illegal drugs.
“Wala akong pakialam kung mayaman kayo, marami kayong pera, siga kayo. Dito right here, right now, ako ang siga dito hindi kayo kaya ako ang masusunod dito hindi kayo. Wag nyo isipin na drug lord kayo, may pera kayo, mayaman kayo, kaya nyo takutin yung mga guwardiya ko,” he said.
When he asked the prisoners if they can stop the illegal drug problem in the NBP, they vowed, “Kaya, sir!”
When he asked Sebastian and Co about their involvement in illegal drugs, Sebastian said, “Matagal na pong tumigil.”
He asked them to cooperate in changing the image of BuCor as a corrupt government agency.
“Pag gumagawa kayo ng matino, kakampi ninyo ako. Hindi ko kayo pababayaan,” De la Rosa said. “This is my first and last conversation with you. Pag ayaw ninyo magbago, babaguhin ko kayo.”
When asked about the status of illegal drugs in Bilibid, dela Rosa said he could not give an exact assessment of the problem as he is new to the BuCor but said “pero kung pakinggan mo yung declaration ng mga tao dun sa Building 14, kung maniwala ka, parang wala talaga. Hindi na sila gumagawa (ng illegal drug trade). But it remains to be seen.”
Dela Rosa said one of the main problems of BuCor especially NBP is the lack of facilities including prison cells.
BuCor currently supervises 42,986 prisoners at the NBP and six penal colonies with an average congestion rate of 123 percent. NBP has 26,516 prisoners, way above its capacity of 10,082, resulting in a congestion rate of 163 percent and occupancy rate of 263 percent.