Helen Cook writs on drugs, sex and corruption in Philippines’ largest prison
Drugs, sex, internet and even electric mopeds are few of the luxuries enjoyed by some of the prisoners in exchange for bribes in Bilibid, the biggest prison in Philippines, a scandal in which the director of the prison and 12 guards have been implicated.
The officials were removed Wednesday and are being investigated by the ministry of justice following complaints in the local media and social networking sites about the treatment received by some of the 22,000 inmates of Bilibid, south of Manila.
According to several Philippine news portals, Ricardo Camata, known as Chacha and the leader of the criminal gang Sigue Sigue Sputnik, a week ago received unauthorised visits from a young actress and television dancers, on two nights when he was hospitalised.
The Facebook page “Bilibid Atin Ito” (“Bilibid is Ours” in Tagalog) denounces the constant trafficking of the local drug “shabu” with several pictures and the exclusive treatment received by some of the inmates, like the prisoner Herbert “Ampang” Colangco, leader of a gang that robs jewellers and banks.
“He is serving his sentence in a house that could accommodate 45 other prisoners, but he stays there accompanied by his personal assistants, chefs, waiters and armed bodyguards,” reads a line on the Facebook page carrying Colangco’s photo.
“Bilibid Atin Ito” further adds that Colangco has “his own desktop with his own internet connection, air conditioning system, golf cart, and access to running water, while the rest of the prisoners spend all day in a line to get a gallon (3.7 litres) of water.
The source indicates that these privileges are a result of “the donation of 1.2 million pesos (over $27,500) to the hospital of Bilibid last year to improve facilities and buy medicines for the sick.”
This money comes from the criminal activities of Colangco, who had robbed many jewellers and banks.
It is suspected that Colangco was behind one of the bloodiest robberies in the history of Philippines, in which 10 workers at a bank branch in Laguna, in northeast Philippines, were shot in the head as a group of men were emptying the contents of the safe.
Police sources reported that many golf carts and electric mopeds had been found in Bilibid, that were apparently used by some prisoners to move through the prison complex.
Fajardo Lansangan, the ex-director of Bilibid, has been strongly criticised for allowing four prisoners to go to exclusive private hospitals without necessary permission from the superiors.
“It was believed that these four cases were medical emergencies, but they should have delivered a report 48 hours after they were transferred to the hospitals,” Deputy Minister of Justice, Francisco Baraan told local radio DZBB after the dismissals.
According to the daily Inquirer, Celso Bravo, a spokesperson of the corrections department of the Philippines, the ex-director of Bilibid shall be replaced by Superintendent Robert Rabo, who was already suspended and absolved for having left a prisoner out of his cell on three occasions.
The Philippines is one of the countries in the world where prisons are highly overcrowded, according to the data from the International Centre for Prison Studies.