Ex-corrections bureau chief denies receiving drug money from inmates

MANILA — Former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Franklin Bucayu on Thursday denied allegations he received drug money from inmates of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

”I never accepted any amount, not even a single centavo, from any inmate in any prison facility during my stint as BuCor director,” Bucayu told lawmakers during the House of Representatives justice committee’s inquiry into the alleged proliferation of drugs in the national penitentiary.

He said he did not receive PHP1.2 million in protection money monthly from high-profile inmate Herbert Colanggo, as well as any weekly “payola” from other inmates.

Bucayu, who assumed the post of BuCor director in March 2013, said he was “shocked” at the gravity of the deep-rooted problems hounding prison facilities, which resulted from “decades of government neglect”.

”The NBP is no longer a prison but has turned into a fort seemingly controlled by inmates; a walled community of convicts,” he said, noting that the drug trade has persisted because of the systemic, decades-long problem.

Bucayu stressed that he was not involved in the Bilibid drug trade and had in fact exposed the illegal operations through the implementation of BuCor’s Oplan Nomad and the National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI) Oplan Galugad on Dec. 15, 2014.

He said it was the first large-scale, inter-agency effort involving more than 400 law enforcement personnel that aimed to dismantle the then existing operations of underground criminal syndicates inside the NBP.

The agencies involved were the Department of Justice, BuCor, NBI, Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), and the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC).

”Assuming that I was in the payroll of my accusers, as they claim, then I had no reason or incentive to mount such a risky, complicated and dangerous operation,” said Bucayu.

The former BuCor chief said he was not surprised that the witnesses testified against him since Oplan Nomad resulted in the “dismantling of their criminal operations and their separation from their respective gangs due to their transfer to the NBI Detention Facility”.

Bucayu also clarified that he had no part in scuttling the original plan of then PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Benjamin Magalong dubbed as Case Operation Plan (Coplan) Cronus, a supposed Bilibid raid involving various law-enforcement agencies.

Magalong earlier revealed that Bucayu, together with PAOCC director general Reginal Villasanta, visited him in his CIDG office in Sept. 2014, requesting him not to push through with the NBP raid since it would endanger Bucayu’s life.

Bucayu said he did not forestall Coplan Cronus, though he mentioned that it would be a “bloody confrontation”, since the NBP terrain involved 14,000 unrestrained inmates.

The meetings on the prospective NBP raid were initially attended by the NBI, PDEA and CIDG, but CIDG was left out of the picture in subsequent meetings.

Bucayu said then justice secretary Leila de Lima told him not to inform the CIDG about the December raid.

“While we were planning, in one of our plans, I asked sec. (de Lima), ‘Ma’am, am I going to inform the CIDG,’ and she replied, ‘No need,’” Bucayu said. Filane Mikee Cervantes/PNA-northboundasia.com