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‘Puro sabaw’: BuCor only uses P39 of P60-food budget per prisoner

Rambo Talabong
‘Puro sabaw’: BuCor only uses P39 of P60-food budget per prisoner
Since July 2018, the Bureau of Corrections has been spending an average of P13 per meal for each prisoner

MANILA, Philippines  – The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) has only spent P39 per prisoner of the Correctional Institute for Women (CIW) as early as July 2018, nearly half of the P60-budget allotted under the budget.

This was revealed during the joint Senate probe into the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law on Thursday, October 3.

According to caterer Angelina Bautista, they have been providing food for prisoners of the CIW as early as July 1, 2018. They won a P21-million contract to serve until December 2018, and has been using the same contract after the BuCor allegedly failed to hold new biddings after the contract had lapsed.

“P39 per PDL (person deprived of liberty) po. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” Bautista said, triggering a chorus of gasps in the Senate chamber.

She made the statement after the Commission on Audit (COA) representative, Director IV Irma Besas, said the BuCor has not been compliant with safety regulations in catering services it availed. 

Asked by senators, Besas said the P21-balance per prisoner was returned to the treasury. 

Angelina lamented that they now want to spend higher for the prisoners because of inflation, but because no new biddings were done, they have been forced to make do.

‘Puro sabaw’

When asked by senators about the low meal budget for prisoners, former National Bilibid Prison (NBP) inmate Godfrey Gamboa said prisoners barely had anything to eat. 

Sa totoo lang, puro sabaw. Kaya namamatay ang mga preso dahil walang bitaminang kinakain (To tell you the truth, we’re only fed with broth.  Many prisoners die because we don’t get nourishment from what we eat),” Gamboa said.

He also said there were times when prisoners were fed “spoiled food,” causing them to get sick.

Former BuCor chief and now Senator Ronald dela Rosa also revealed the sorry state he witnessed when he was handling the Bilibid from April 2018 to October 2018.

Dela Rosa said that during his stint as BuCor chief, he observed that the caterers acted more like suppliers since they used the NBP’s water  power supply, and the food was prepared by the prisoners themselves.

P60, paano mabubuhay ang tao sa P60? Tapos bababa pa (P60,how can a person live with P60? And then it’s even lowered),” Dela Rosa said.

He said he was only led BuCor for only 5 months, so he did not have time to address this.

Lower budget?

After learning that the full meal budget for prisoners was not being used, Senator Panfilo Lacson said perhaps it was time to revisit the allotment for this item.

“‘Pag compute natin na nabawasan ng P21 kasi P39 lang, maka-save dapat ang gobyerno, P360 million. Hindi ito budget hearing pero baka puwede i-amend na bawasan ng P360 million. Kasi kasya pala ng P39,” he said.

(If we compute this, and deduct P21, since it’s only P39, then the government can save P360 million. This is not a budget hearing but maybe we can amend it to reduce it by P360 million. Because it seems that P39 is enough.)

‘Improper’ notarization

During the hearing, it was also learned that suspended BuCor legal chief Fredric Santos charged P50,000 to notarize catering contracts for Bilibid.

Yung pagnonotaryo ni Attorney Santos ng contract namin na P50,000 tinatawaran ko ng P30,000 (Attorney Santos’ notary service was P50,000 and I asked it to be reduced to P30,000),” Bautista said.

The rate surprised senator-lawyers, particularly Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Senator Richard Gordon and former justice secretary Senator Franklin Drilon, who asked Santos to address the accusation.

Santos admitted charging a high amount because it was apparently the “standing rate” given that the caterers earned millions from serving food to prisoners.

The suspended legal chief added that he did not force caterers to have him notarize their documents. But senators flagged the act given that he was once a member of the Bids and Awards Committee, which approves contracts with caterers.

Member ka ng BAC, tapos ikaw ang nonotaryo, ‘di ba mahalay ‘yun (You were a member of the BAC and you notarize the documents, isn’t that problematic)?”  Lacson said. – Rappler.com

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said that caterer Angelina Bautista spent P39 per prisoner of the National Bilibid Prison. This has been corrected.

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.