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Gwen wants donations to CPDRC inmates accounted for

First Posted 07:38:00 02/13/2010

Cebu?s world-famous dancing inmates are no longer performing in public or rehearsing in prison.

All that has been put on hold on orders of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia.

Garcia said she had received reports questioning where donations for inmates went, and so wants a new system in place to account for money and gifts given by generous admirers to the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) .

Inmates became an Internet sensation in 2007 after their version of Michael Jackson's ?Thriller? was posted on YouTube.

They became even more famous after Jackson?s choreographer, Travis Payne, appeared with them last month in a dance video for the DVD release of Jackson?s ?This is It? concert under an exclusive arrangement with Sony Entertainment.

The status of Byron Garcia, Capitol security consultant, remains up in the air as the governor has not renewed his contract for 2010 pending review.

The inmates? longstanding choreographer, Gwen Lador, resigned.

Byron, who supervises the CPDRC, was the one who first required inmates to do synchronized dance steps or an ?algorithm march? as a form of discipline and later steered them to various pop music dance routines for fun and rehabilitation.

He denied that he?s been pulled out of the CPDRC and a rift exists with his elder sister, the governor.

He told Cebu Daily News in a text message that he did not know about the orders of the governor to stop the dancing at the CPDRC. . ?Wala man ko information ana (I don't know about that).?

Governor Garcia told a news conference yesterday that she decided to pull the plug on the CPDRC dancing inmates after talks circulated that some people benefited from donations given to CPRDC.

?Precisely because of the sudden peak of their fame, I think you are all aware of the intrigues, the innuendos, the whispers, unfairly or unjustly accusing certain personalities of benefiting from such fame,? she said.

?In order to to put a stop to all of this, I issued a memorandum reminding one and all that all activities that have been going on must be cleared with the Office of the Governor, namely myself. After all, as the official jailer, I will be ultimately responsible for anything and everything that goes on there.?

Asked by CDN if Byron was still Capitol security consultant, the governor said she has not signed the contract renewing his consultancy services.

In the past, the governor proudly credited Byron for using dancing as a novel way of rehabilitating inmates and then bringing pride to Cebu with the inmates? international success.

Public performances at the CPDRC every third Satuday of the month and special occasions are open to the public and have drawn a growing number of tourists.

?Gipatawag namo ug meeting, wala ma'y tunga-tunga (We invited him to attend meetings but he never showed up),? Garcia said of her brother.

It remains to be seen if Gwen would renew her brother's contract.

Talks have been rife about a strain in the relations of the two siblings.

Byron, on the record, said there was no conflict between him and the governor. He said he was at the CPDRC last night performing his duties while he was texting CDN.

In the meantime, dancing in the CPDRC has been suspended.

Governor Garcia said she told jail officials to intensify the program on planting of crops inside the compound instead.

She started the agricultural program in December 2004 when the jail was transferred to its present site in a hilly part of barangay Kalunasan, Cebu City.

?I have instructed our social welfare and provincial health offices and the Provincial Agriculture Office to continue with our program,? Gwen said.

?In terms of their continuing to dance, tanawn nato. Naa pa man ug nabalik naman ang mga CD sa kanang ilang background music. Since the choreographer has resigned, we will see if we will find another one,? she said.

Garcia said she didn?t want let the dance performances overshadow the rehabilitation program.

?The real story there is their rehabilitation, their transformation and the program that has given them the encouragement to become useful and upright citizens inside the CPDRC,? she said.

She said she wanted transparency in the accounting of all donations given to the provincial jail.

She said she had received reports that some donations were not properly documented and benefited some individuals, whom she did not name. To address these ?innuendos,? she said she will implement a better accounting system.

No details were given. The governor only said that there was need to correct some practices.

?I think the practice there is that donations are directly deposited in the bank accounts of the inmates. That is fine but when you make a donation to a government facility, that means there must be proper procedure that must be followed,? the governor said.

?In the interest of transparency, we insisted that all donations to the CPDRC must be properly documented by the Office of the Governor.?

Byron was assigned to the CPDRC as security consultant in 2004, the start of Governor Garcia?s first term.

In 2007, he started a program that used synchronized dance steps as an experiment in rehabilitaiton of the inmates. The inmates version of ?Thriller? logged 38 million hits in YouTube and caught the attention of Jackson and his choreographer, Travis Payne.

Travis and two dancers flew to Cebu on Jan. 16 to to shoot a dance video to the music ?They Don?t Care About Us? for a special DVD release of the King of Pop's documentary ?This Is It?. It logged 3.6 million hits on YouTube as of last night.

The terms of the exclusive arrangement with Sony Entertainment were not disclosed although Byron, in an interview, said there was ?no payment? for the performance.

There was no public performance for January, raising speculations that Byron had been sanctioned. The inmates? choreographer, Lador, later resigned.

Byron reportedly left his office at the CPDRC.

The governor yesterday said he has not been attending meetings she called in her office.

Byron on the other hand said that he has not left the CPDRC and he has ongoing conflict with his sister.

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