MANILA — A convicted drug trafficker left her high-security prison on at least 3 occasions, spending 10 months at a private hospital at one point for “facial pain,” said Sen. Richard Gordon, who denounced privileges accorded to moneyed inmates in the country’s corruption-ridden prison system.
Yu Yuk Lai, a convicted drug dealer who allegedly continued to run her illegal business from prison, went through a series of laboratory tests for suspected short-term stroke in 2014, her workup approved by the justice department, a Senate committee was told Thursday.
Two years later, she spent 23 days in the same private hospital for heat exhaustion and a thyroid problem, said May Ann Marasigan, acting chief of the Correctional Institution for Women.
A supposed coronary problem sent her to the Philippine Heart Center for more than a month in 2017.
“How does one get away with that in God’s earth?” said Gordon, chairman of the blue ribbon committee, noting how difficult it was for other inmates to secure medical abstracts or leave prison for medical attention.
“Lumabas siya ng 10 months. Di kayo nagtanong bakit?”
(She was out for 10 months. Didn't you ask why?)
Sen. Christopher Go also cited the case of 3 inmates allowed to stay at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) hospital under questionable circumstances.
Inmate Wilfredo Arias, he said, spent 8 months in the hospital for supposed “stomach ache,” while Willy Yang stayed there for 5 months for alleged hernia. A third inmate was also allowed at the NBP hospital for 8 months due to panic attacks and hypertension.
Go suspected that certain people at the prison hospital were accepting bribes from inmates seeking stay there, an allegation later admitted by its medical officer, Ursicio Cenas.
The senator also warned he had evidence against Ernesto Tamayo, medical chief of the NBP hospital who claimed he only heard of “rumors” of corruption there.
“Mahirap magturo nang walang ebidensya,” said Tamayo.
(It's hard to point blame without evidence.)
Go warned him: “Antayin n'yo lang. Ipapasa ko lang sa komite 'yung mga ebidensya laban sa'yo.”
(You just wait. I will file evidence against you before the committee.)
Go also urged the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to include the purchase of grenades and other equipment in their proposed budget for 2020.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier named a former Parañaque and Manila prison warden facing criminal charges as BuCor chief. Under Gerald Bantag’s watch, 10 detainees were killed in a grenade blast at the Parañaque City jail in 2016.