Ex-Bucor chief in Duterte’s drug matrix
FORMER Bureau of Corrections Director Franklin Jesus Bucayu yesterday said he fought illegal drug activities inside the New Bilibid Prisons included and earned him the ire of syndicates which sent him and his family daily death threats after he started a massive crackdown on drugs, weapons and other contrabands in the sprawling jail facility in 2014.
“I strongly deny being involved in any illegal activity in Bilibid and even during my years in the police and the military. Records will show that I was the one who started the big fight versus drugs in Bilibid. I was the one who exposed the anomalies taking place in that facility,” the member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1981 told the Journal Group.
A former Police Regional Office 1 director in Ilocos-Pangasinan region, Bucayu was included in President Duterte’s ‘matrix’ of individuals led by Senator Leila M. de Lima allegedly behind the illegal drug trade in Bilibid. Bucayu said he is ready to defend his good name and even aired his admiration on President Duterte’s all-out campaign against drugs.
Bucayu said he conceptualized the so-called Oplan: Nomad aimed at dismantling the illegal drug trade inside Bilibid. In December 2014, an inter-agency task force implemented Oplan: Nomad which started a series of high-profile dawn raids on the maximum-security prison compound being ruled by convicted drug lords.
The raids led in the confiscation of shabu, high-powered firearms and other weapons, about P2 million in cash and other contrabands including expensive wines and liquor, communication gadgets, television sets, airconditioning machines, cellphones, expensive personal properties and even sex toys.
The operations also triggered the transfer of 19 drug lords to the National Bureau of Investigation. “I would say that Oplan: Nomad revealed the extent of drugs in Bilibid. It opened the eyes of many,” he said.
The 4th BuCor director to serve during the term of Sen. De Lima as Department of Justice secretary, Bucayu said that no such raids were done in the Bilibid before he assumed command of BuCor. Under De Lima, the BuCor directors were retired police general Ernesto Diokno, retired Army general Gaudencio Pangilinan, Bucayu and later retired Army general Rainier Cruz III.
The retired official said Oplan: Nomad was a top-secret operation which involved several phases. First was the identification of high-profile targets in the Bilibid; Second was how to extract them from the prison compound which houses more than 14,000 inmates; Third was how to minimize violence during the extraction process; and Fourth, where to confine those high-profile targets.
“Oplan: Nomad was executed on December 2014 and we accounted for 19 high-profile targets and accounted for luxury items, drugs and weapons. To tell you frankly, I bore the brunt of those raids, so many deaths threats and my health was affected. Due to pressure of the job and my family, I was forced to resign,” he said.
Oplan: Nomad failed to account for a 20th target named as ‘Marcelo’ since the convict was discovered to be sick at the prison hospital. Bucayu said the 19 targets were transferred to the NBI since bringing them back to Bilibid after the raids would just put to waste their actions.
Bucayu said what he discovered during his stint with the BuCor should teach the present leadership a lesson.
First, NBP facilities are not a prison but a ‘fort’ which has become a ‘breeding ground’ for criminals. “Bilibid actually has turned into a ‘crime school,” he said. He said that the incapable prison facility makes it very hard to segregate violent and non-violent prisoners. “If these prisoners are not separated, how can you genuinely reform them?” he asked.
Second, he said that there is a need to put new faces in the prison compound since the present prison guards assigned there lack the training to do their job. “There is already a running system in Bilibid which can’t be changed overnight,” he said.
Third, he said that he discovered that it is hard to manage an organization which is ‘not organized, not synchronized.’
Last, but not the least, he said that there is a need to change the ‘informal system’ taking place at the facility where ‘unwritten rules’ are being followed. According to Bucayu, he found out that BuCor was still using the old MS2 computer system when he took his post. “Records there were not really computerized. It was under me when BuCor released 81 overstaying prisoners whose release records we found out during a lengthy process,” he said.
Bucayu said it was also him who dismissed 20 rogue Bilibid prison guards and suspended over 100 erring guards. He said that apart from never entering the Bilibid, he also changed the visiting policies in the compound as well as existing policies when it comes to hospitalization and even burial which are being taken advantage of by some individuals.
“I obviously have earned the ire of those persons and many big-time prisoners whose liberties were curtailed as a result of the reforms I initiated. It was due to the pressure and threats to my life and my family, my failing health too that forced me to resign my job,” he said.
Bucayu on March 2013 replaced Pangilinan who resigned after several controversies rocked the bureau under his watch, particularly the abduction of one of its prominent inmates, Rolito Go, from the NBP compound in Muntinlupa City in 2012. Pangilinan succeeded Diokno who resigned after the escape of another convicted killer, former Batangas Gov. Antonio Leviste.
The NBP was supervised by De Lima while Pangilinan was on leave.
The 2014 raids promoted the transfer to the NBI of convicts Peter Co, Eugene Chua, Chua Sam Li, Vincent Sy, George Sy, Joel Capones, Herbert Colangco, Amin Imam Boratong, Tony Co, Clarence Dongail, Tom Chua, Rommel Capoines, Jojo Baligad, Willy Chua, Michael Ong, Jacky King Sy, Willy Sy, Noel Martinez and Herman Agojo who, according to De Lima, ‘control as much as 50 percent of the illegal drug trade at the NBP.’