Estrada no complaints over prison condition

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Monday, June 23, 2014

MANILA - Senator Jinggoy Estrada who surrendered Monday on plunder and graft charges has no complaints over the condition of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame, his lawyer said.

"Wala siyang complain, maayos naman talaga at kayang-kaya niya 'yung init. Hindi siya nagrereklamo at all maayos naman ang electric fan," said Alexis Abasdillas Suarez, Estrada's legal counsel.

Sandiganbayan fifth division chair Associate Justice Roland Jurado issued a commitment order directing the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) to detain Estrada at the PNP custodial center.

Suarez said Estrada will be staying in a room next to Senator Ramon Revilla Jr.'s, his co-accused in the plunder and graft charges in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

The lawyer said the two senators have met for the first time since Revilla surrendered to the Sandiganbayan last Friday.

"Magakatabi ng selda sila ni Senator Bong at nagkita na sila, nag-usap din sila at okay naman at nasiyahan si Senator Revilla na magkasama sila doon," Suarez said.

(Video by Third Anne Peralta/Sunnex)

Revilla who had spent three nights at the newly renovated detention facility in Camp Crame had been complaining of migraine allegedly due to extreme heat and poor ventilation.

The senator's wife, Cavite Representative Lani Mercado, bought an air cooler to minimize the heat but she was prevented from bringing it in.

Revilla's detention cell only has one ceiling fan, a single bed, kitchen sink and a restroom, said PNP Public Information Office head Reuben Theodore Sindac. He said any request for additional appliances or gadgets should have the approval of the court.

Aside from the heat, Revilla also complained of rats and roaches during his first night in detention.

An official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Prison and Pastoral Care (CBCP-CPPC) said Senators Revilla and Estrada should not be given VIP treatment by the PNP.

Rudy Diamante, CBCP-CPPC executive secretary, said that they understand that government should provide the basic needs of the two accused, such as providing bed and access to be able to communicate with their counsels and families.

However, he noted that providing air-conditioning units, air cooler and refrigerator would be too much.

"There should be equal treatment for all, but why they are being separated to other prisoners? It's because they are high profile, they are security risk since there maybe threats in their lives or they may be threats to the prisoners," he said in an interview over Church-run Radyo Veritas.

On the other hand, Diamante is hoping that putting the two senators behind bars would serve as an "eye opener" on the real situation of prisoners in the country who were given meager food allowance, inadequate medical facility, lack of jail officers and security for prisoners and congested prison cells.

"Many prisoners who are not given basic health care. We hope that the government and lawmakers would have a better understanding of the situation of the prisoners and how to preserve and protect the rights," he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano was in Camp Crame on Monday for an engagement but did not visit his detained colleague.

Asked if he thinks there is special treatment for the accused senators, Cayetano said, "They have their own detention cell far from the ordinary criminal, what does it mean?"

"Sundan natin saan nag-ugat 'yan, si (alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet) Napoles may sariling kulungan ngayon, hindi siya kasama sa ordinary kulungan, kung sasabihin na may death threats, wala bang threats ang buhay ng ibang criminal na kinakasuhan sa ibang bansa, kung sasabihin na baka magulpi, hindi ba trabaho ng BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) 'yan," he added.

He also urged the media to focus on the crime committed by all accused in the PDAF scam and not on human interest side of their detention.

"In the past few days panay human interest, alam ko mainit doon alam ko napakahirap makalaboso, pero hindi ba sinasabi if you can't do the time, don't do the crime. Ang pakiusap sa media let us focus on the crime na ma-punish rather than kawawa naman ang mga pinaparusan," Cayetano said.

Cayetano said the real victims are the taxpayers who religiously paid their obligations and not the families of the PDAF scam accused.

"Isipin ang mas kawawa, 'yung ninakawan, nagugutom na magsasaka, doon ninakaw. Makikita mo halos lahat ng malalaking corruption issue sa buong bansa ay sa agriculture napupunta, fertilizer scam, swine scam, itong PDAF (scam) sa agriculture tinira ito, mga farmer ang tinamaan dito," he said. (With FP/Sunnex)

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