THE situation inside the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) took centerstage Tuesday, May 23, during the House justice panel's hearing in response to the call of Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia to investigate alleged anomalies inside the facility.
Several local officials of Cebu, led by Governor Hilario Davie III, attended the inquiry and defended themselves against accusations of mismanagement and abuse inside the provincial jail.
Garcia's twin resolutions aim to delve deep into the alleged proliferation of illegal drugs inside the CPDRC, as well as the controversial raid last February 28 that went viral following the strip search conducted by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) operatives among the inmates.
In his opening remark, Davide "thanked" Garcia, a former Cebu governor, for giving his administration the chance to air its position regarding the alleged mismanagement of CPDRC.
"I'd like to thank especially [Garcia]...Indeed this is an opportune time for the Provincial Government, whose behalf I will be speaking, to present...that the CPDRC is ably-managed," Davide said.
According to Davide, the "evil that is drugs simply refuses to die" and that its existence within jail facilities is "not uncommon."
"The problem of drugs existed not only during my administration. It had been there for many years. I'm sure that is not unique in the province of Cebu or CPDRC. Every jail has its own problem in drugs," he said.
Davide was elected governor in 2013, and Garcia held the same position from 2004 to 2013.
Davide said that to flush drugs within the CPDRC, he instituted the following measures:
* Intensified internal raids
* An ordinance adopting the manual of operation and administration of the CPDRC, authored by Board Member Sun Shimura
Davide defends Toral
Meanwhile, Davide defended his "friend" Mark Toral, an ex-inmate he appointed as jail consultant, from allegations that he was in cahoots with drug traders inside the CPDRC.
Prior to his appointment, Toral was convicted by a regional trial court to life imprisonment for violation of the dangerous drugs act but his jail term was cut short after the Court of Appeals reversed the decision. He only served seven years in jail.
"It is true that I got him as consultant for jail matters, similar to what Congresswoman Garcia did when she was governor when she got a brother as consultant of the CPDRC...[Toral was] a friend. I had trust in him. I had faith in him and I knew he was going to introduce reforms in the CPDRC," he said.
"It was just unfortunate that there were so many innuendos and rumors that alleged complicity at the CPDRC which forced me to ask for his resignation. But he had indeed introduced so many improvements at the CPDRC," Davide added.
Lawmaker threatens to strip PDEA budget
Negros Oriental Representative Arnolio Teves Jr. threatened PDEA-Central Visayas Director Yogi Flemin Ruiz that he will remove the agency's budget over "failure" of intelligence.
During the interpellation, Teves asked Ruiz if drugs are still present and sold inside the Cebu jail facility, to which he answered in the affirmative.
"If the PDEA is useless, then during the budget hearing patanggal ko na lang 'yung budget n'yo. Bakit may drugs pa din? The jail is a controlled environment, I don't understand why drug still proliferate in a controlled environment," Teves said.
Ruiz also added that they do not have information as to who is the protector of the inmates involved in the drug trading.
"For the record, he's just telling us that they have poor intel," Teves told the panel.
Strip search 'justified'
Another issue tackled during the House probe was the controversial raid in CPDRC last February, during which the inmates were stripped naked and made to squat, causing uproar among human rights advocates and other groups.
But for PDEA, the agency that led the raid, strip search was a "standard operating procedure" to ensure the safety of government forces.
"It is the SOP of the PDEA and BJMP during operation that strip search is allowed for the safety also of the raiding team. There was no inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment of the prisoners," Ruiz said.
The regional director of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) backed PDEA, saying that according to their report, they found nothing "inhuman" in the said raid.
"For security reasons, there exists a threat to the raiders and security forces, so the committee believes the strip search is justified," DILG-Central Visayas Director Rene Burdeos said. (SunStar Philippines)