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EDITORIAL - VIP prisoners

(The Philippine Star) - June 8, 2014 - 12:00am

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima acted promptly and replaced the superintendent of the New Bilibid Prisons, Fajardo Lansangan. Twelve prison guards were also relieved following reports that certain inmates in the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa were enjoying VIP perks.

Such special treatment is not unique to moneyed prisoners in the NBP. Money talks in the country’s detention facilities. Scandals have erupted periodically over the special treatment enjoyed by prominent jailbirds, with a number of them allowed to spend much of their prison time in private rooms in hospitals.

The recent scandal in the NBP is just the latest appalling example. Last month gang leader and drug convict Ricardo Camata, who was brought to the Metropolitan Hospital in Manila allegedly due to a lung ailment, was reportedly entertained by starlets and television dancers in his private hospital room.

Bank robbery gang leader Herbert Colango was also taken to the Asian Hospital and Medical Center for treatment of urinary tract infection. Earlier, Amin Buratong, operator of the notorious drug den near the Pasig city hall, was also taken to The Medical City purportedly due to liver and coronary artery problems.

At a certain age, people can find something wrong with their health if they look hard enough. Anyone who is arrested and detained, and especially if convicted and sent to Bilibid, is likely to suffer from coronary problems and hypertension. Minor surgery, put off for a long time, can suddenly become a good excuse to spend time away from the Maximum Security Compound.

You won’t find impoverished petty thieves suffering from UTI, however, being brought to Asian Hospital with its five-star service or – a long way from the NBP – The Medical City. If a prisoner from the slums suffers from high blood pressure, he will likely be advised to take a shower and sleep it off in his cell.

The Department of Justice, which has jurisdiction over national prisons, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, which supervises local jails, must draw up guidelines to stop this source of corruption. The justice system suffers enough from perceptions that there are two types of justice in this country: one for the rich, and the other for the poor. It is most visible in the penal system.

AMIN BURATONG ASIAN HOSPITAL ASIAN HOSPITAL AND MEDICAL CENTER DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT FAJARDO LANSANGAN HERBERT COLANGO JUSTICE SECRETARY LEILA MAXIMUM SECURITY COMPOUND MEDICAL CITY METROPOLITAN HOSPITAL
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