Even Elvis Presley with his rock ’n’ roll imagination would have found it a stretch: convicted killer Rolito Go disappearing from the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) Tuesday evening and materializing on Wednesday night, claiming that he was kidnapped along with his nephew right from under the noses of his jailers, taken to a house in Batangas, and given the scare of his life until he was released after supposed payment of ransom (since denied by his wife). What a humdinger.
The escapade has left the NBP, Philippine National Police, and Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) looking like a confederacy of dunces. The wonder is that top officials have managed to maintain a straight face despite the disgraceful episode. NBP superintendent Richard Schwarzkopf said Go was considered an “escapee,” but expressed puzzlement as to why he would flee given that he was scheduled for release next year on parole. BuCor Director Gaudencio Pangilinan has made himself scarce after issuing statements that Go had escaped and was not abducted. Of course, the statements from prison officials are self-serving. They would rather have Go an escaped convict rather than a victim of abduction because it would put the onus of the blame on him. But either way, they have sunk deeper into the mire of their incompetence. Heads must roll, foremost of which are Pangilinan’s and Schwarzkopf’s.
Malacañang has directed the Department of Justice and National Bureau of Investigation to look into Go’s disappearance. But PNP Director General Nicanor Bartolome has expressed interest in the case because of the jailbreak and alleged abduction, which are both police concerns. He has contradicted the escape theory, explaining that pieces of evidence recovered by the police were consistent with Go’s kidnapping claim. The car that was supposedly used in the abduction, owned by Clemence Yu, Go’s nephew and personal nurse, was found in Batangas by local police early on Thursday. An empty shell was found in the car, consistent with Go’s statement that his abductors had fired shots there. Go also said he was hit on the back of his head by one of the abductors; medical personnel have tended to that injury.
Go is afflicted with colon cancer and has a colostomy bag strapped to his person. This factor is among those being cited for the supposed implausibility of his escape. Still, his disappearance is nothing new. Sentenced to life imprisonment for killing college student Eldon Maguan in a fit of road rage in July 1991, he has been doing time at the NBP for 18 years. He escaped from the Rizal provincial jail on Nov. 1, 1993, days before his sentencing, but was recaptured. A “living-out” prisoner, he has reportedly been going in and out of the NBP compound even without authorization from the justice secretary. It is said that BuCor officials condone his leaving the NBP to tend to his money-lending business which has its office in Soldiers’ Hills in Muntinlupa City. In fact, the man also has a thriving used-car enterprise directly connected to his money-lending, and is engaged in buy-and-sell activities, the most recent involving bamboo poles.
It’s common knowledge that VIP prisoners in the NBP enjoy certain privileges. Go’s disappearance happened more than a year after former Batangas Gov. Antonio Leviste’s trip out of the heavily guarded prison. Leviste, who was convicted of killing his long-time friend and aide in 2009, was arrested outside a building he owns in Makati City. That caper prompted Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and the BuCor to implement reforms in the NBP, including the dismantling of wealthy prisoners’ private quarters and the suspension of “living out” privileges for some inmates.
But what’s new is that Go was spirited out of jail purportedly by kidnappers! Inquirer sources said Go’s supposed abduction could be related to his money-lending business. The story goes that among those who owe him are prison officials themselves, who have been complaining about the high interest that he collects from borrowers. In fact, the sport utility vehicles seen parked outside his hut were actually “repossessed” by him from borrowers who had failed to make good on their loans. The plot thickens.
“Imagine, kidnapped right in the NBP!” exclaimed De Lima. “Only in the Philippines!” We can only agree: Even prison is more fun in this country.
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