By Ralph Edwin Villanueva, October 10 2019; Philippine Star

Image Credit to Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Prohibited drugs, sex toys and cell phones were among the items seized as shelters or kubol inside the maximum security compound of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) were demolished by authorities yesterday.

Elements of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO,) Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), Department of Public Works and Highways and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) conducted the demolition.

Joining the operation were members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF).

BuCor Director General Gerald Bantag said the inmates “abused their privileges” by erecting the illegal structures to hide their use of contraband.

All four quadrants of the maximum security compound, which houses some 18,000 inmates, have illegal structures.

NCRPO chief Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said the demolition of the structures will help solve the illegal drug problem inside the prison.

“The problem is, these structures are set up like a dormitory and they were there like mushrooms,” Eleazar said.

He also said the national penitentiary “created monsters” which, in turn, made authorities afraid of them and not the other way around.

He said the demolition is a good start in turning things around.

Bantag said that he would really want to demolish illegal structures in all seven penal colonies of the BuCor, as long as he has the help and personnel from the government.

The demolition yielded illegal drugs, weapons, sex toys, disallowed appliances such as televisions and electric fans, machinery and cash.

Maj. Alberto Tapiru of BuCor said the contraband taken from the “shanties” were smuggled right under the noses of the past administration.

Tapiru said some inmates who could pay for the contraband materials purchased them.

“That is the system of the past, which we are trying to correct,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a television interview, Bantag admitted that influential inmates have offered bribes to his subordinates. Among those who made bribe offers to prison officers were suspected drug lords.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday said Bantag must be able to resist these temptations.

“I am sure that inmates with money will continue to buy convenience, luxury and freedom to engage in nefarious activities while in detention. So that’s the challenge that director general Bantag has to overcome,” he added.

Bantag was tapped by President Duterte last month after controversies hounded the BuCor in the past months, from the anomalous granting of good conduct time allowance to high-profile inmates, to alleged involvement of BuCor officials in illegal activities.

Last week, Bantag relieved 353 BuCor officers from their posts as part of Duterte’s directive of a total revamp.

Aside from these, intelligence gathering as well as total elimination of contraband through rigid frisking is also being intensified to finally cleanse BuCor.

On Tuesday, Bantag welcomed 70 SAF members to the BuCor as reinforcement.

During the change of guards ceremony of the SAF personnel at BuCor grounds in Muntinlupa City, Bantag said he is confident the officers will live up to the reputation of the SAF. – With Evelyn Macairan