Maybe we’ve been watching too many movies. In prisons around the world, inmates are supposed to be locked up inside their cells by nighttime, with some doors not just bars but made of solid pre-cast metal for maximum security. In modern prisons, the cell doors are automatically locked simultaneously.
There are supposed to be regular head counts at least twice a day, in the morning when the cells are opened, and later when the inmates are locked up for the night.
Obviously, none of these happened at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa, where a riot between rival gangs erupted at 2:30 a.m. last Friday at the supposedly maximum security compound. When the riot finally ended at 4 a.m., nine members of the Sigue-Sigue Sputnik and Commando gangs lay dead, with several others wounded.
The manner of death is still unclear. Weapons including knives are supposed to be prohibited within the prison compound, and especially inside the cells. How did the prisoners get hold of bladed weapons? Initial reports said the gang members grabbed anything they could get their hands on for the brawl.
It took an hour and a half before the Bilibid guards managed to subdue the warring gangmen. Was there a hostage situation? The Department of Justice, the mother agency of the Bureau of Corrections, which supervises the NBP and other national prisons, has ordered an investigation. The DOJ will have to bring in an independent prober. If there is negligence on the part of BuCor or NBP officials, they aren’t going to provide the rope for their own hanging.
A thorough and credible probe is needed so much-needed reforms can be implemented in the NBP. The national penitentiary has been rocked by too many scandals, including special privileges and amenities enjoyed by VIP inmates, drug trafficking from behind bars, and the latest – the anomalous grant of good conduct time allowance for the early release of certain prisoners. The deaths of nine inmates should lead to long overdue reforms in the prison system.