VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Posts on BuCor chief’s statement on allowing PDLs to use gadgets NEED CONTEXT

Some Facebook (FB) posts are making it appear that Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) office- in-charge Gregorio Catapang Jr. has given persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) permission for the free use of mobile gadgets. This needs context.

On Nov. 19, a FB page posted a screenshot of Catapang with text that read: 

Pwedi (sic) na gumamit ng cellphone tablet at computer sa BUCOR (It is now allowed to use cellphone, tablets and computers in BuCor).”

The screenshot came from a now-viral FB video uploaded by a vlogger that used clips from an ABS-CBN news report aired on Nov. 17, where Catapang talked about his reform agenda to address maltreatment of the PDLs and BuCor personnel. 

In the report, Catapang said: 

 “Sinasabihan ko lahat ng mga inmates, kung kayo eh inapi o pinagmasamaang loob, kung ano man ang reklamo niyo, i-report niyo sa akin. Magbibigay nga ako ng cellphone number ko eh para kung ano, ite-text na lang nila

(I’m telling all the inmates, if you are oppressed or mistreated, whatever your complaint is, report it to me. I will give my cellphone number so that when [someone is abused], they will just text about it).”

While Catapang has given his phone number to PDLs to report instances of abuse, it does not mean that they may liberally use mobile devices, which are known to be contraband in the bureau’s detention facilities.

The reporter in the ABS-CBN story said: 

“Bawal ang mobile gadgets sa kulungan pero binibigyan ng pagkakataon ang mga inmate na makagamit ng computer tablet pero regulated o kontrolado lang ang gamit at mahigpit na binabantayan ng mga tauhan ng BuCor.”

(Mobile gadgets are not allowed in prison, but inmates are given opportunities to use a computer tablet. But the use is regulated or controlled and strictly monitored by BuCor personnel).

Source: ABS-CBN News YouTube channel, BuCor nangako ng sistema para dinggin ang mga sumbong ng Bilibid inmates | TV Patrol, Nov. 17, 2022, time code 1:16 to 1:28

This context was omitted from the circulating screenshot.

In a Nov. 21 episode of Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho, Catapang also clarified that PDLs are still not allowed to use individual cell phones.

“I-allow ko yung cellphone kasi mayroon akong satellite link na pwede silang kumausap sa mga kamag-anak nila, pero controlled ko (I will allow cellphone because I have a satellite link with which they could talk to their relatives, but it’s controlled by me) I know whom they are talking [to], recorded. Bawal yung cellphone na individual (Individual cell phones are prohibited).

Source: GMA Public Affairs YouTube channel, Mga bagong kontrobersiya sa New Bilibid | Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho, Nov. 21, 2022, time code 13:56 to 14:06

The BuCor has an e-Dalaw program which allows PDLs to video call their families under BuCor’s regulation and control. 

The posts came out five days after the BuCor identified 15 personnel allegedly involved in the entry of thousands of contraband, that includes communication devices discovered inside the New Bilibid Prison. 

Catapang became BuCor’s acting director general after former chief Gerald Bantag was suspended for his alleged involvement in the deaths of broadcast journalist Percy Lapid and a PDL. 

The screenshot posts of the FB pages The Filipino (created on Feb. 25, 2020) and The Igorot (March 1, 2016) collectively garnered 183 reactions, 72 comments and 16 shares. The video by the page TAmbayan Tv.Video ni Richard A. (July 4, 2022) garnered 40,000 reactions, 21 comments, 4,500 shares and 654,000 views.

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