MANILA -- A "big and organized mafia" within the Bureau of Corrections demands up to P1.5 million in exchange for the early release of prisoners based on good conduct credits, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Friday, citing information from Senate witnesses.
Some 2,000 heinous crime convicts have been freed since 2014 due to the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law, which recently came under fire following reports that it could benefit convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez.
"The extortion racket involving GCTA for sale ranges from 50k to 1.5m pesos per PDL (person deprived of liberty)," Lacson said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.
"It is a big and organized mafia involving officials of the BuCor. The Senate will not stop until we crack these shameless acts wide open and hold to account those responsible no matter who they are," he added.
Senate President Vicente Sotto said earlier Friday that the 3 Senate witnesses includes a detainee, the wife of a prisoner and a third individual whose identity he refrained from disclosing.
One witness, Yolanda Camelon, told lawmakers on Thursday that she paid P50,000 to several Bureau of Corrections officials for her husband to be released early from the New Bilibid Prisons.
The Senate witnesses also will reveal how 6 inmates paid P100,000 for their freedom while some drug lords paid P1.5 million each, Sotto told radio DZMM.
"Depende sa estado [ng kaso] ang presyuhan," he sid.
(The price depends on the state of the case.)
Some inmates, he said, also bribe BuCor officials so they would not be transferred from the maximum security compounds to the minimum and medium security facilities.
"Kasi daw andoon ang negosyo nila sa maximum," Sotto said.
(It's because their business is allegedly located inside the maximum security compound.)
A group of Chinese inmates allegedly control narcotics operations from the maximum security compound using smuggled cellphones, a Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency official said last year.
Four Chinese drug lords were freed under the GCTA law earlier this year, Lacson said last week.
Lacson said he and Senators Franklin Drilon, Richard Gordon and Christopher Go grilled Camelon before allowing her to testify on Thursday night.
"I would like to believe na panimula pa lang ang paglabas ng witness namin kagabi at marami pang susunod dahil ayon na rin sa kanya, napakarami pang gustong magsalita pag nabigyan ng pagkakataon," Lacson said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.
(The appearance of our witnesses has just started and according to Camelon, many others want to testify, if given a chance.)
-- With a report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News