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Group raises concerns anew on ‘Bilibid’ deaths

Families and friends of inmates at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City on Saturday raised their concerns anew after a Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) official said one inmate dies everyday.

New Bilibid Prison (NBP)

At the sidelines of a prison health forum on Wednesday, NBP Hospital chief Dr. Henry Fabro said the national penitentiary was in “critical condition” as the mortality rate was more than the universally accepted computation.

Fabro said the worldwide standard is at 0.2 percent of the population but at the NBP, the rate is at 0.5 percent, which is equivalent to one inmate dying every day.

Rights group Kapatid  (Families and Friends of Political Prisoners) said in a statement the information is a cry for help to the government.

“The statement by the New Bilibid Prison hospital director that one inmate dies everyday is a cry for help but is the government listening? The NBP is a prison facility not a cemetery,” the group said.

The group urged President Rodrigo Duterte to take steps and address the issue as the statistics is depressing.

Kapatid cited data from BuCor saying that within a 17-day period, from October 9 to 25, 29 inmates died when the NBP was locked down because of clearing operations.

It added that from January to September 2019, the BuCor recorded 329 deaths, comprising about 70 percent of the total reported deaths from the agency.

“And the year is not even over yet, and the death toll it turns out is even higher,” the Kapatid said.

Fabro in an earlier interview said they only have four doctors and 36 to 40 nurses in the maximum security compound of the NBP. Nationwide, the bureau has only 13 medical staff, he added.

As of September 2019, BuCor handles over 47,000 persons deprived of liberty in all of their seven penal farms nationwide. Of this, over 18,000 are inside the maximum security compound in NBP.

Kapatid reiterated its call to the BuCor to restore electricity 24/7 in prison dormitories, supply clean drinking water and allow humanitarian agencies and non-government organizations to put up tents and organize medical missions.

It also appealed to the Department of Justice to expedite the process to release all Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) returnees as well as parolees and pardoned prisoners to address severe congestion inside the penitentiary.

According to BuCor data, there are 610 GCTA surrenderers nationwide.

The group also claimed that an inmate died on Thursday night, but BuCor spokesman Maj. Alberto Tapiru said an inmate named David Trinidad in the maximum compound died of diabetes on Friday.

In a text message to The Manila Times, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party-list Rep. France Castro said they were saddened by BuCor data.

“Totoo raw ‘yun sabi ng aide niya [BuCor Chief Gerald Bantag] dahil sa kakulangan ng facilities at mga doktor sa ospital nila. Nakakalungkot (The information is true according to Bantag’s aide because of the lack of facilities and doctors in NBP hospital. It’s sad),” Castro said as he visited NBP on Friday.

Meanwhile, Tapiru said through the order of Bantag, they have submitted the list of 99 inmates aged 70 and above to the Board of Pardons and Parole for early released.

He added that those aged, weak and sickly inmates were from the minimum security compound.

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