1 dead, 19 hurt in Bilibid blast

Perseus Echeminada (The Philippine Star) - January 9, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Even with repeated raids, weapons keep finding their way into the national penitentiary.

An inmate was killed while 19 others were wounded when a grenade exploded inside the maximum security compound of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa yesterday morning.

Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director Franklin Bucayo said prison authorities had just concluded a search inside the nine-hectare prison facility at about 9:55 a.m. when an unidentified prisoner lobbed a fragmentation grenade at the dormitory of the Commando Gang.

Probers are pursuing reports that the target of the attack was Jaybee Sebastian, who was supposed to be among the prisoners transferred to the National Bureau of Investigation detention facility. Sebastian, reportedly suspected to be a stool pigeon, was unharmed.

“Somebody exploded a grenade at building 5 after search and clearing operations,” Bucayu said.

Initial investigation showed the explosion was caused by an Mk2 fragmentation grenade.

The fatality was identified as Jojo Fampo, while two other inmates, Argie Lacdao and Alvin Cruz, were seriously injured.

At least 17 other prisoners were hurt and rushed to the NBP hospital while Lacdao and Cruz were brought to Mandaluyong hospital for treatment of their shrapnel wounds.

Bucayu immediately ordered an investigation on the incident, but said he believes it had something to do with their intensified campaign against contraband and illegal activities inside the national penitentiary.

“We will not be cowed by this incident. We will continue with our drive to cleanse the NBP,” he said.

Malacañang vowed that authorities would get those behind the grenade explosion at NBP.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a press briefing that all angles would be pursued because the incident was a serious matter.

He said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had called for an investigation and would ensure those guilty would be made responsible.

Bucayu confirmed that the explosion occurred as he was about to hold a command conference and present to the media more items seized from inmates in three recent raids.

He said the incident occurred in the vicinity of Building 5 in the area of the Commando Gang inside the maximum compound near the kubol (hut) of high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian.

Bucayu said NBP Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team backed by the Muntinlupa police Special Action Force (SAF) were deployed in the NBP compound to respond to any emergencies.

“The situation is now under control, we are now investigating who was responsible for the attack,” Bucayu said.

During the earlier search and clearing operations, several high-powered firearms were either recovered or surrendered by the inmates.

The seized firearms included 18 pistols, eight 12-gauge shotguns, an M-16 rifle, KG-6 9 mm machine pistols, 400 rounds of assorted ammunition and three hand grenades.

Some inmates also surrendered several appliances that included a flat-screen television set, an air- conditioning unit and DVD players.

Also recovered inside the prison compound were cell phones, improvised knives, appliances and other contraband smuggled inside NBP.

At press time the search operation was still ongoing in the maximum security compound.

Bucayu is planning to build a segregation facility at the NBP as the immediate solution to the perennial problems in the penitentiary, citing the need to divide inmates according to their classifications as high-risk, highly violent, suicidal and others.

The BuCor also plans to move the NBP to Laur, Nueva Ecija this year as part of its modernization program.

“We are dealing with problems that are deeply rooted in the NBP. This cannot be fixed in just a year. We need long-term solutions,” Bucayu lamented.

As this developed, the Department of Justice announced the dismissal of the NBP official who interfered in the BuCor’s seizure of prohibited items inside a kubol at NBP last year.

De Lima has ordered the dismissal from the service of NBP superintendent for reformation and administration Catalino Malinao.

Apart from his dismissal, Malinao’s retirement benefit has likewise been forfeited, even as he is no longer allowed to be re-employed in government. Malinao, however, is still entitled to his accrued leave credits.

The case stemmed from an inspection conducted by the BuCor Security and Patrol Unit (SPU) at the kubol of inmate David Allen Uy inside the premises of the Amazing Grace Chapel in Building 11 of the NBP.

During the search, authorities confiscated a laptop, a DVD writer, an external memory, a few cable wires and a USB flash drive.

Uy was not around when the inspection was conducted.

When Uy arrived, he was accompanied by Malinao, who questioned the SPU search. Malinao then took the bag containing the confiscated items from the search team.

The BuCor Internal Affairs Service conducted a preliminary investigation on the matter and elevated the complaint against Malinao to the DOJ.

Malinao said procedural due process was violated when the BuCor referred the matter to the DOJ.

But the DOJ said in its resolution that both the BuCor director and the DOJ secretary have concurrent jurisdiction over BuCor personnel.

The NBP is administered by the BuCor, which is under supervision of the DOJ.

No human rights abuse

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairman Loretta Ann Rosales said the DOJ did not violate the rights of the inmates transferred from the NBP to the National Bureau of Investigation.

“Their rights were not violated because all constitutional rights have corresponding responsibilities in order to uphold those rights,” Rosales, who visited the inmates last month, said in a statement.

Rosales issued the statement after relatives of some of the inmates, through lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, submitted a letter to the CHR detailing the alleged human rights violations committed against them.

Topacio claimed in the letter that the DOJ and the BuCor have breached the guarantee to every prisoner of their human right to have contact with the outside world, in violation of Republic Act 10575 or the BuCor law.

The lawyer said De Lima also violated the prisoners’ constitutional Bill of Rights when they were rendered incommunicado, “completely unreachable by their relatives and counsels, worse, bases and authority that are not made known to them, much less the public.”

But according to Rosales, it was De Lima herself who requested her to visit the inmates at the NBI to inspect their conditions and assure everyone that their basic needs are being attended to.

“I was able to confirm and fully agree with (the secretary’s) assertion in her request,” said the CHR chief.

According to her, public interest is not served when rights of people in detention are abused by the detainees themselves.

“That’s why they had to be extracted from the scene of the crime,” she said. “That’s also the indivisibility of human rights.” – With Edu Punay, Janvic Mateo

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