Band-aid solutions won’t work for Bilibid

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Justice Secretary Leila de Lima gave a deadline for the inmates at the New Bilibid Prison to turn in their secret hoard of weapons, drugs, cellphones and other contraband by last Sunday. Drop boxes were placed at different places in the facility for the purpose.

When the boxes were opened on Monday, they yielded an assortment of weaponry: a 30-gauge shotgun, five pistols, 14 improvised shotguns and close to 300 fan knives and other bladed weapons.

The inmates also gave up about 60 drug paraphernalia and 350 mobile phones.

Yet, Secretary De Lima is not impressed. She said her “gut feel” tells her that the inmates had not surrendered all their cache of contraband.


No one said reforming the country’s premier penitentiary will be a cakewalk. The secretary herself admitted that she was up against dark, powerful forces that run Bilibid like it was their kingdom.

It is a realm where the more privileged inmates live in air-conditioned quarters with home theaters, jacuzzis and Internet connection. They traffic in drugs, guns and women. The rest of the prison population is packed in hothouses masquerading as cells, where the risk of getting killed in a gang riot is very real.

Dismantling this invisible government will be the biggest challenge for Secretary de Lima. The question is, is she up to it?

The secretary has created the Bureau of Corrections Clean-Up Oversight Team and gave it four months to do its job.

Four months is not a realistic time frame for such a daunting task. At best, it will be a patch-up job, since the team will be under tremendous pressure to produce results in so short a time.

What needs to be done is to get to the very root of the Bilibid problem, something that should have been done a long time ago.

Overcrowding has always been the overriding issue. Bilibid was built in 1936 to house no more than 9,000 inmates. Today the number has more than doubled, with about 23,000 prisoners crammed inside the facility.

Let us hark back to an article on the Preda (People’s Recovery, Empowerment and Development Assistance) website, “The Condition of Philippine Prisons and Jails.”

“Herding individuals in cramped spaces is cruel, inhuman, ill, degrading, and unjust punishment,” the article noted. “Overcrowding is dangerous to health and to human life. It breeds diseases, breaks down discipline and exacerbates tensions. Having to fight for air and space 24 hours a day make prison, in the words of inmates, a living death.”

There were attempts to improve conditions in Bilibid, but none of them produced palpable results because the problem of congestion was never fully addressed.

A solution could finally loom with the Bureau of Corrections Act. Passed in 2013, the law calls for the transfer of the national penitentiary from Muntinlupa City to Laur, Nueva Ecija, by 2019.

The new facility to be built in Laur can house 26,000 inmates.

But there is a catch: Transferring Bilibid will be a P50.2-billion venture, and the P437 million that was initially allocated for it was deleted from the national budget.

Unless a bigger Bilibid is built, the problems that besiege it will persist.

Band-aid solutions will not work.

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5 Comments

  1. Jaime Hernandez on

    With 7,100 plus islands perhaps we can find one that’s suitable for a big prison population. Something like Alcatraz in the U.S.

  2. De Lima should accept responsibility and resign . But where is the honor among these incompetent appointees???? Lost in making excuses

  3. i heard deo macalma over dzrh news this morning saying that his bubwit told him that certain sexy starlets and not so in demand sexy actress were constant visitors at the nbp. latest yata ay itong christmas holidays after the much publicized raid of de limas. palabas lang itong ginagawa ni de limas in aid of her election sa senate.

  4. One does not know why the government is always keen on “band-aid” solutions. One good example is repairing a road. Instead of using strong and lasting materials like cement, the government will insist in using asphalt. The reason? after a short time, when asphalt is subjected to extreme conditions like continuous rains and another, by being used by heavy equipment, asphalt deteriorates much faster so the DPWH can ask for another budget to repair or restructure the roads. This is an ugly cycle which the government is fun of employing and the reason is continuous kick-backs for the government executives and DPWH workers. The government is so in love with making band aid solutions to almost everything so they can make money along the way.

  5. Dapat yung mga druglord at may grabeng kaso katulad ng robbery at rape ay iba ang kulungan,at hard labor! Dapat pinagdadalhan nila ay katulad ng iwahig!
    Kung isasama sa mga minor na kaso dadami lang ang magiging galamay ng mga ito!
    Bawal makausap ng mahahawakan ang sino man! Sa salamin lang at may telephono kapag kausap sila!
    Ang guard dapat sisante at may kriminal liabilities kapag nakipagsabwatan upang sa ganoon magkaroon ng takot!!
    Dahil kung ang limang taon nilang sahod ay kikitain nila ng silang buwan lang kapag nakipagsabwatan wala din!mangyayari paglilinis dahil pakitang tao lang ang mangyayari!!
    Malamang pang 2016 election lang ito!!sana hindi!!