EDITORIAL - Porous prisons
(The Philippine Star) - October 23, 2015 - 10:00am

What will it take to bring order to the nation’s main prison facility? At the maximum security compound of the New Bilibid Prisons the other day, one of the convicted killers of a Masbate mayor was shot dead by a fellow inmate in what NBP officials described as a gang war.

A sweep of the NBP cells reportedly yielded 14 handguns, a grenade and a remote-controlled drone that prison officials claimed was just a toy. Also found were two refrigerators and an air conditioner.

How do weapons including grenades keep finding their way into a maximum security compound? And why does it take a murder to unearth appliances that are not supposed to be there? Aren’t prison cells supposed to be inspected at least once a day and a head count conducted at the end of each day? How hard is it to spot a refrigerator?

It can’t be spotted if no one is looking. Less than a year ago, a raid by anti-narcotics agents on the NBP compound showed 19 notorious drug convicts living it up in plush accommodations that included a sauna, a Jacuzzi, a music studio with a generator, wide-screen television and air conditioning.

In addition to shabu found in the premises, the raiding team also seized cash amounting to nearly P2 million. The raid was conducted amid reports that drug trafficking in Metro Manila and other areas was being conducted from within the confines of the NBP. The drug dealers, several of whom are serving life terms, had nothing to lose. What else could the state do to them – arrest them and toss them behind bars?

The convicts lost their perks with the dismantling of their VIP cells, followed by their transfer to the detention facility of the National Bureau of Investigation. Franklin Bucayu subsequently quit as director of the Bureau of Corrections, saying the job was bad for his health. He was replaced last June by retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, the fourth BuCor chief under President Aquino.

Now Cruz has a murder to deal with, on top of the previous problems. A prison facility is supposed to have a highly regimented environment. If the state cannot impose discipline and maintain peace and order even in a maximum security prison facility, its record in keeping the public safe can only be dismal.

ARMY LT BUREAU OF CORRECTIONS FRANKLIN BUCAYU JACUZZI MASBATE METRO MANILA NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION NEW BILIBID PRISONS NOW CRUZ PRESIDENT AQUINO RICARDO RAINIER CRUZ
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