By Wilnard Bacelonia

POLICY REVIEW. Bureau of Corrections Director General Gregorio Catapang Jr. (center) joins the nation in celebrating the country’s 125th Independence Day, even inside the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City in this photo taken on June 12, 2023. BuCor is now reviewing its policies after the escape of an inmate last Aug. 15. (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA – Existing privileges of National Bilibid Prison (NBP) inmates in Muntinlupa City will remain despite the escape of an inmate last July 15, Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gregorio Catapang told lawmakers on Tuesday. 

This, even with the escape of Michael Angelo Cataroja, who was declared missing last July 15 but arrested by police authorities in Sitio Manggahan, Barangay San Isidro, Angono, Rizal on August 17.

Catapang, during the second hearing of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, said inmates will still be allowed to be visited by their relatives even during the review period of policies and security protocols inside the NBP.

“Wala pong mawawalang privilege. Meron pa ring dalaw pero ngayon hihigpitan ng konti (No privielege will be cancelled. Visitations will still be allowed but we will be slightly stricter),” he said in reply to Senator Robinhood Padilla’s concern on what will be the consequences of Catarroja’s escape.

He said they are reviewing the policies, including the garbage collection schedule and whether to tap persons deprived of liberty (PDL) to help in the hauling process. 

Cataroja, who is serving time for violation of the anti-fencing law, told the Senate Committee that he clung under a garbage truck and took off along C-6 Road before walking to Antipolo City.

He said he was helping in loading garbage on the truck on July 7 when he found an opportunity to get under its chassis and stayed there until it left the NBP compound, which Catapang said “is gone in 12 seconds.”

Senator Francis Tolentino, who chairs the panel, said they will have another hearing after the Board of Inquiry, formed by the BuCor to look into the incident, submits its report after two weeks.

“Patapusin muna natin yung trabaho nila General Catapang (We will let General Catapang finish their job first),” he told reporters.

The lawmaker clarified that the panel is not only looking into Cataroja’s escape but also pushing for total prison reforms by ensuring human rights are observed in all penal facilities in the country. (PNA)