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International News (Archives)
Inmate's wife tells of ‘GCTA for sale’ at Bilibid

September 6 ------ A wife of an inmate on Thursday night told investigating lawmakers that New Bilibid Prison (NBP) prisoners can avail of an early release for a fee, bolstering claims of a "GCTA for sale" racket allegedly by Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials. Facing the Senate blue ribbon committee, Yolanda Camelon narrated her dealings with BuCor officials to adjust the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) record of her husband and reduce his prison sentence leading to his release.

GCTA, which is covered by Republic Act 10592, allows for reduction of sentence of persons deprived of liberty (PDL), depending on how well they abide by the rules inside the penal institutions. Controversy on the GCTA broke following reports about the possible early release of convicted murderer-rapist Antonio Sanchez. "Isa po kami or ako sa mga naging biktima . . . na nagpapatunay na meron po talagang GCTA buying,  . . . yun nga lang, magastos," she told the panel led by Senator Richard Gordon. Camelon said Major Mabel Bansil approached her in February and told her that her husband's prison term could be shortened if she is willing to pay P50,000.

According to Camelon, Bansil introduced her to Staff Sergeant Ramoncito Roque, who was BuCor's chief of documents. Camelon said she made the first payment — P10,000 — at Roque's house.  She made the next two payments of P20,000 each. After shelling out the amount, she said she was promised the release of her husband in March this year, but that did not happen.  The date was moved to June and then to October.  At this point, Camelon said she no longer wanted to negotiate with the BuCor officials and demanded her money back.

A separate report by Super Radyo dzBB said that only P10,000 has been returned so far to Camelon. When she heard about talks of the GCTA controversy, she decided to come forward and tell her story. Gordon suspended the hearing at past 11 p.m. and said it would resume at 10 a.m. on Monday.  Another witness is expected to make revelations about the GCTA for sale.

Roque confirmed that Camelon and Bansil went to his house and forced him to accept the P10,000.  He said he returned the money after a few days. "Wala po akong tinanggap," he said, adding that he returned the money only after few days because was thinking about a lot things that time. He also said he could not do anything about the records of Camelon's husband and that of other inmates because it was under the custody of the encoder. "Hindi ho ako gumagalaw sa pagbibigay ng GCTA, sa encoder po yun," he told the Senate panel.

A GMA News exclusive report published earlier in the day also narrated about the story of Lydia, whose husband had been in jail for a few years.  Like Camelon, she received an offer from Roque's group to process his GCTA documents. "Tatlo sila, una yung tumatawag sa akin sa CP, pangalawa yung tumatanggap ng pera, at yung hepe nila, sino po yun? Si Chito Roque, head ng documents section," said Lydia, who added that she had to take out a loan for the money.

"Tinatawagan nila ako sa CP, fina-follow up nila ang budget ko, hihingi nila yung 50k, on hand ko lang 10k, OK na raw iyon, yung balance pag available na."

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