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Prison system, personnel should be changed

/ 06:02 AM December 22, 2014

Congress should seriously consider the proposal of Sen. Tito Sotto to revive the death penalty for drug trafficking and for heinous crimes like the Maguindanao massacre. Many countries in the world, particularly those in Asia and the Middle East, put to death drug traffickers. Even just drug couriers are executed in the Middle East. Because drugs are so dangerous and victimize many innocent young people.

Because there is no capital punishment here, many drug cartels have moved to the Philippines. Even if they are caught and imprisoned, drug lords can still continue their nefarious activities behind bars, as the recent raids on the New Bilibid Prison (I don’t know why it is still called “New” when it is already very old) have uncovered.

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Note that most of the drug lords caught in luxurious “kubol” in the maximum security compound of the NBP have Chinese-sounding names. Drug laboratories raided by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency also employ Chinese workers, many of whom cannot even speak Filipino, which means that they mostly came from mainland China where drug traffickers are put to death.

There is so much money in the drug trade that drug lords can buy their way out of prison or even acquittal from the courts. In fact, drug lords imprisoned at the NBP have been able to bribe prison guards and higher prison officials so that they have become the bosses and no longer the prisoners. Other prisoners protect them and work for them. Because they make so much money from the drug trade even inside prison.

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A prison is supposed to reform prisoners so that they can go back to useful lives when their prison terms expire. It is also supposed to discourage others from committing crimes. In the case of the NBP, however, it is the prison guards and officials who have been reformed by the prisoners.

How can prison discourage criminals when being imprisoned in the NBP is like being billeted in a 5-star hotel, with 24-hour security from guards, paid with taxpayer money, protecting them from rival drug lords? In fact, a criminal outside prison will want to be imprisoned if that is the situation in the NBP.

Prison guards follow orders from them. Prison superintendents allow them to bring in luxury items, high-powered guns and other contraband into their luxurious kubol. A kubol means a small, makeshift shed. But the kubol in the NBP are like the suites in 5-star hotels, air conditioned and with the latest luxury electric appliances.

Millions of pesos in cash and money-counting machines were found in the kubol, which means that a lot of money get into the hands of the drug lords.

And that is the reason the prisoners have been able to transform the NBP into their fiefdoms. Money can buy anything at the NBP.

Heads must roll in the NBP. While three prison superintendents have been relieved (but not charged in court), Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director Franklin Jesus Bucayu shows no sign of remorse when he should have resigned outright because what happened in the NBP under his watch is shameful.

If this were Japan, the BuCor director would have committed hara-kiri after apologizing to the nation he had betrayed. Not in the Philippines. No sign of remorse from Bucayu. In fact, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is protecting him, claiming that it was Bucayu who had informed her of what was going on at the NBP and helped prepare for the raid.

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Bucayo himself claimed that the preparation took months. Months? Because it took so long, there was a leak and the drug lords were tipped off of the coming raid—perhaps by the prison guards themselves—and were able to hide the smaller contraband. The jacuzzi, bathtub, air conditioners, and music paraphernalia were too big to hide and those were what the raiders found.

Bucayu claims he did not know what was going on in the maximum security compound. He has been BuCor chief for one year already and he still did not know? He has not inspected the compound even once during that time. It is supposed to be a maximum security compound but contraband—even prostitutes and sex toys—were brought in so easily.

All the kubol in that compound should be demolished and regular cells built there. The first sin was committed when the first kubol by a wealthy prisoner was allowed to be built there. All the other wealthy prisoners then built their own kubol.

Even in prison, the divide between the rich and the poor flourishes. The poor prisoners huddle together in cramped cells; the rich have their own, luxurious quarters.

The kubol are not the only ones that should be demolished. The guards and prison officials should be changed. As in the Bureau of Customs, even if the guards are reassigned, the replacements will succumb to the same temptation.

The whole BuCor system must be changed.

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TAGS: Bilibid raid, Bureau of Corrections, Illegal drugs, NBP
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