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The Philippines’ Corruption-Ridden Jail System


By: Viswa Nathan

The October 3 homicide of the Philippine broadcast journalist Percival Mabasa—often known as Percy Lapid—by a motorcycle-borne murderer as Mabasa drove into his gated group, adopted by the loss of life of Cristito “Jun Villamor” Palaña, an inmate within the nation’s high-security New Bilibid Jail, has yielded greater than what the crimes had been anticipated to ship.

The killings have delivered to focus what makes the Philippine penal system—maybe different institutions too—rotten: corruption, cold-blooded revenge in opposition to anybody demanding accountability from these in authority, and fearless misuse of energy.

It has additionally impressed Consultant Robert Ace Barbers to maneuver a invoice in Congress to tighten jail safety and forestall contraband objects from coming into correctional facilities, a coverage made mockery of by New Bilibid. “The proliferation of contraband in jail has remained a perennial downside within the nation,” mentioned Barbers. “Its unending presence contained in the correctional amenities has now reworked our jail establishments into breeding grounds for persevering with criminality.”

As particulars of the newest crime involving the jail unfolded, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. mentioned he was bothered by the linking of Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag to the crime and ordered Bantag’s suspension though Bantag stays free thus far regardless of the gunman’s confession linking him to the crime, a miserable reminder of the widespread impunity that has lengthy saved high-ranking officers freed from prosecution.

“I assume he (Bantag) established his personal fiefdom there in jail,” the president mentioned. “That’s why he moved with no concern of being punished.” It was a candid remark of how a succession of earlier administrations uncared for correct supervision of correctional amenities and allow them to degenerate right into a pathetic state.

In opposition to that unnerving realization, and consistent with his election promise of a unity authorities for a greater Philippines, the president reached out throughout political limitations and named the retired Normal Gregorio Catapang, Jr. because the officer accountable for the bureau of corrections. Catapang, previously a insurgent soldier who plotted with others in opposition to the dictatorship of Marcos Sr., was chief of the armed forces throughout the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, and likewise near the Aquino clan.

The problem that Gen. Catapang faces, now popping out of retirement, is monumental. “We have now to take a look at and see what occurred right here, why did we come to this, what went on contained in the jail,” mentioned Marcos earlier than appointing Catapang to the duty. 

Quickly after taking cost, Catapang found a big and deep tunnel dug beneath a swimming pool near the director’s residence and resulting in a river close by.

However then this was not the primary time a tunnel was found within the NBP compound. In July 2014, a tunnel was discovered at a pipe-laying mission by a water concessionaire. It was contained in the maximum-security compound that served as a detention facility for former troopers and cops. Bureau officers then mentioned it was merely a part of their “drainage system” constructed within the Thirties.

Now Bantag, charged with the homicide of Lapid and Palaña, says that he ordered the development of a diving pool as a result of he needed to show scuba diving. 

Its discovery got here following the seize of some 12,000 contraband objects—cell phones, laptop computer computer systems, medicine, and seven,500 cans of beer—smuggled into the jail compound. Prisoner Cristito Palaña, who allegedly was the intermediary for the order to assassinate Percy Lapid, was additionally discovered to own a cell phone. However he was killed simply hours after Joel Escorial, the confessed murderer of Lapid, surrendered to authorities. Palaña was first mentioned to have died of a coronary heart assault, however a subsequent investigation concluded he had died when a plastic rubbish bag was stretched over his head.

Then once more, this isn’t the primary time such smuggling exercise has been noticed. New Bilibid and different prisons within the nation have lengthy been recognized for irregularities. There have been studies about rich criminals serving prolonged jail phrases, constructing snug houses contained in the jail compound, and main a carefree life lengthy earlier than Bantag took cost. 

CNN Philippines reported simply over three years in the past {that a} senate listening to had discovered of cell phones being bought to convicted drug lords at New Bilibid for as much as PHP2.5 million, effectively over US$40,000. The report additionally mentioned 16 cops deployed on the jail to enhance safety had been below investigation for smuggling contraband objects into the jail compound. In addition to, witnesses reported to have mentioned there’s a 24-hour on line casino contained in the penitentiary, and high-profile inmates paid jail guards PHP30,000 to permit feminine entertainers to remain of their cells in a single day.

Whereas Bantag’s culpability within the illicit actions and the murders of Lapid and Palaña, is a matter for the court docket to find out, he has assumed the function of a whistleblower, calling for the resignation of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla and warning the president to be careful for the place he receives his info from.

Bantag was named Bureau director when former president, Rodrigo Duterte, fired the earlier director, Nicanor Faeldon, in early September 2019 for signing an order defying a presidential directive. That order was for releasing 1,900 heinous crime convicts below a brand new legislation that allowed convicts early launch primarily based on good conduct time allowance. Among the many prisoners Faeldon chosen for launch was former Calauan, Laguna, mayor Antonio L. Sanchez, serving seven counts of 40-year phrases for the rape and homicide of College of the Philippines pupil Eileen Sarmenta and the homicide of her boyfriend and fellow UP pupil Allan Gomes in 1993, and a double life time period for 2 different earlier murders—altogether 360 years. Faeldon’s motion sparked a public uproar.

To fill the emptiness left by Faeldon, Duterte picked Bantag, who then was with the Bureau of Jail Administration and Penology, which supervised all district, metropolis, and municipal jails within the nation.

Whether or not or not the previous president was then conscious of Bantag’s profession historical past, which, in keeping with printed media studies, was sprinkled with controversies, is now irrelevant. What is crucial now’s whereas bringing the culprits within the New Bilibid episode to justice, a course of should additionally start to make correctional facilities certainly what they need to be.

The historical past of Bilibid jail is a tragic story. The previous Bilibid jail that the Spanish rulers in-built Manila within the mid-1800s was for 1,127 inmates. However with rising incidents of crime, the variety of inmates rose to 4,800. Thus, the brand new masters of the nation, the US, determined within the Thirties to construct a brand new facility some 30 km south of Manila in Muntinlupa and in 1940 moved all inmates of the previous facility to the brand new one, known as the New Bilibid Jail. Its projected capability then was 6,435 inmates. As of November 2021, it housed 28,545.

Clearly, constructing further correctional facilities to alleviate overcrowding in current amenities, would merely be an affirmation of the federal government’s failure to deal with the causes that promote crime. The proposals in Consultant Barbers’ invoice additionally don’t goal these causes, they solely intention on the signs.

The questions the episode has thrown up are clear: Will President Marcos transcend fixing the newest New Bilibid disaster and take steps for the society to rid itself of the elements that breed crime? And can the individuals at giant assist such an initiative for constructing a greater Philippines? 

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