Dela Rosa claims no ‘tilapia’ scheme in Bilibid when he was BuCor chief

CNN Philippines Staff

Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa claims that a scheme where prison officials allowed the entry of female entertainers in exchange for cash did not exist when he was Bureau of Corrections chief.

However, Dela Rosa admitted that the scheme involving female entertainers — known as “tilapia” — did exist in the past.

Wala nga po ‘yan. Panahon pa noong nakalipas na pamunuan ang tilapia na ‘yan,” Dela Rosa said in a radio interview over the weekend, according to a transcript from his office.

[Translation: That didn’t exist. Tilapia existed under previous management.]

Dela Rosa said that during his time, they rewarded well-behaved inmates with a one-day conjugal visit each month.

Pinapa-fill up namin ‘yan sila ng record kung sino ‘yung kanilang asawa, live-in [partner] or common law wife, ilalagay ang pangalan doon. At ‘yun lang ang authorized pumasok pagdating ng kanilang once a month conjugal visit. ‘Yun lang ang makapapasok,” he said.

[Translation: We make them fill up a record stating who their spouses, live-in partners or common law wives are, they would put their names there. And these are the only ones authorized to enter during their once-a-month conjugal visit.]

Former BuCor acting chief Rafael Ragos told the Senate that high-profile inmates pay prison guards ₱30,000 to allow female performers and entertainers called “tilapia” to stay in their cells overnight. He said among the entertainers brought inside Bilibid were the Mocha Girls.

Dela Rosa also denied anew that he had received bribes when he was BuCor director general.

Klaruhin ko ‘yung sinasabi na pagpasok ng bagong director may pasalubong. Never ‘yan nangyari sa aking panahon. Kahit na pugutan niyo ako ng leeg, hindi ‘yan nangyari!” he said.

[Translation: Let me just clarify what they say about new directors receiving money at the beginning of their terms. That never happened during my time. Even if you chop my head off, that never happened!]

The Office of the Ombudsman revealed last Wednesday during the House’s budget deliberations that they included Dela Rosa, Nicanor Faeldon and other former BuCor chiefs in their probe on the early release of heinous crime convicts through the expanded Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law.

Dela Rosa earlier admitted during a Senate probe that he signed 120 release orders for heinous crime convicts. He said most of them were “murderers and rapists.”

As BuCor chief, Dela Rosa also wrote to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to ask for authority to release convicts sentenced to reclusion perpetua, despite a department order stating that these inmates can only be released by the Justice secretary.

Dela Rosa’s request was not acted upon, but he admitted that he went ahead and released inmates.

The expanded GCTA policy came under scrutiny following reports about the possible release of convicted rapist and murder Antonio Sanchez.

The government has since suspended the processing of new GCTA applications and has ordered the 1,914 heinous crime convicts who have been freed since 2014 to surrender in 15 days. A total of 505 have surrendered as of Saturday, five days before the President’s deadline.

The government contends that heinous crime convicts are not entitled to GCTA, even if the law states that “any convicted prisoner” can avail of it.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Thursday that the draft of the new implementing rules and regulations for the expanded GCTA law bars heinous crime convicts from availing of GCTAs.

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