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Palace says ‘pork’ senators’ detention cell in 2014 budget

Malacañang does not see anything wrong with the use of taxpayers’ money to renovate the police detention cells for the three senators implicated in the pork barrel scam.

The renovation of the police custodial center is part of regular government expense and should not be misconstrued as special treatment of the high-profile detainees, according to Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.

jail of senators, Manila Bulletin

Newly Built Officer’s Facilty at PNP Custodial center in Camp Crame is shown to the media by PIP PNP spokesperson Reuben Theodore Scndac. The facility is where three senators allegedly involved in the PDAF scam will be jailed once warrant of arrests are served. (Photo by Michael Varcas)

The police earlier allowed media to view the would-be detention rooms for Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon Revilla Jr. at the custodial center in Camp Crame. The three senators may face arrest following the filing of plunder charges before the Sandiganbayan.

Each detention room is reportedly similar to studio-type apartments measuring 32 square meters. It has a toilet, ceiling fan, and a kitchen sink.

“Kailangan po nating unawain na mayroong tungkulin ang iba’t ibang ahensiya ng pamahalaan at ang tungkulin hinggil sa custodial detention sa umiiral na batas ay nasa larangan ng operasyon ng Department of Interior and Local Government sa pamamagitan ng Philippine National Police at ng BJMP [We must understand that various government agencies have responsibilities and the responsibility on custodial detention falls under the Department of Interior and Local Government through the Philippine National Police and the BJMP],” Coloma said in a Palace press briefing.

Asked if it was fair to spend taxpayers’ money to build special cells for the persons accused of stealing public funds, Coloma insisted that the improvement of the police facility is funded by the 2014 national budget.

“You can check the National Budget for 2014 and the capital expenditures that are allowed for the Philippine National Police and the Department of Interior and Local Government, which has BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) and these are included in the work programs of the agencies concerned,” Coloma said.

“When the National Budget was enacted, no charges have been filed with any courts,” he added.

He noted that the country’s jails have detention facilities intended for “detainees” or those still facing trial. In the case of the respondents to the pork barrel-related cases, Coloma said they are considered innocent until proven guilty.

“At batid din natin na sa ating Saligang Batas, mayroong garantiya sa ating Bill of Rights — the presumption of innocence. Kaya naman po hinihiwalay iyan doon sa pagtrato naman sa mga nasintensiyahan na, ano, na ang tawag sa kanila ay mga bilanggo o prisoner [Under our Constitution, there is a guarantee of bill of rights — the presumption of innocence. That’s why we distinguish the treatment from the prisoners, or those who have been sentenced],” he said.

Coloma maintained that it is up to the court to decide on the place of detention of those accused in the pork barrel scam.

Meantime, Malacañang brushed aside allegations that the administration was behind the demolition job against certain opposition politicians in preparation for the 2016 elections.

“Ang laking sayang sa panahon kung tayo ay mag-i-engage pa sa demolition samantalang napakalinaw naman na construction, reconstruction, at rehabilitation ang mga prayoridad sa kasalukuyan [It would be a waste of time if we engage in demolition when it is clear that our priorities are construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation],” he said.

He said the administration is focused on fulfilling its social contract with the Filipino people within its 743 days left.