‘President’ Duterte’s war on drugs may begin at Philippines’ main prison
Drug lords, who used to live like kings in luxury cells of Philippines’ Bilibid prison, are a scared lot after they raised bounty on the head of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte who has threatened to kill them and bust the drug rings allegedly operating from behind bars. Duterte, on his part, has to watch his steps as these crime bosses can contact a hit man on their mobile phone
MANILA–Prison program in the Philippines aims at rehabilitating a convict, teaching him or her moral reform, obedience and proper behavior.
But instead of being de-radicalized by the monotony and humdrum of prison life, crime lords inside the Philippines’ biggest prison, the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), have managed to continue with their criminal activities and have even raised bounty on the head of the incoming President Rodrigo Duterte.
Incoming Philippine National Police (PNP) head, Chief Superintendent Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, recently revealed that drug lords, currently incarcerated at the NBP, initially offered a P10-million ($216,807.80) reward to kill either him or Mayor Duterte. Since there were no takers, they raised the bounty to P50-million ($1,084,857.56).
Confirming this, a prison source told Asia Times that the bounty is higher with crime bosses committing to contribute to the pot money with an amount as high as P50-million.
The NBP is one of the seven prison facilities operated by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor). It was built in 1940.
The nine-hectare facility is divided into three camps — the Minimum Security that houses the inmates already set to be released after serving their penalties; the Medium Security Prison where inmates sentenced from one month to 20 years are incarcerated; and the Maximum Security Compound that houses those convicted of heinous crimes such as illegal drugs, robbery, murder, plunder and rape, among others.
It is in the Maximum Security Compound where big time members of crime syndicates are housed. It also played host to a number of prominent personalities including an actor, son of a former senator, a mayor, a congressman, governor and son of a former chief justice.
Regardless of their status outside, once inside prison, they are all segregated from their community of orientation and forced to live in an almost dictatorial and regimented daily routine for a specified judicially prescribed period or so the government thought.
“That’s what they thought. Inmates can still make contacts outside, the leaders of criminal syndicates are running their operation from within prison,” the source said.
Last year, government authorities discovered that inmates managed to continue their illegal activities despite incarceration and were living a posh lifestyle with gadgets, Jacuzzis, private gym and even a music room inside their cell.
These convicts were further segregated into Building 14 where every cell has a closed circuit television camera and the only facility inside is a bed, toilet and an electric fan.
Prison authorities have also conducted regular raids to confiscate prohibited and illegal items inside prison.
But the measures taken by authorities are not enough.
“We are congested by more than 250%, we lack prison guards and our modernization law is still pending,” BuCor Director Rainier Cruz said.
De la Rosa said Bilibid is the source of 75% of the drug transactions all over the Philippines.
The prison source confirmed this.
“They are not really separated from the outside world, they have their mobile phones to contact their people outside,” the source said.
The Department of Justice (DoJ), the head agency of BuCor, admitted that while they have information that an illegal drugs laboratory exists inside prison, such information remains inconclusive.
According to Justice Secretary designate Vitaliano Aguirre, Duterte’s first strike against illegal drugs will be at the NBP.
All the prison guards, he said, will undergo a retraining and taking their place will be the police’s elite — the Special Action Force, a group formed along the lines of British Army Special Air Service (SAS).
Duterte, during his latest press conference, threatened to kill drug lords in the prison.
He said the convicts, at a right price, enjoy the company of women, acquire illegal drugs and even their own armory.
He also said he would provide bounties for both police and civilians who can capture or kill drug offenders.
“I have money good for 200 persons. Tanang drug lord ihawa ninyo (Kill all the drug lords),” he told reporters.
He is currently offering nearly P5-million for the capture of “large-scale drug traffickers” and a smaller bounty of P50,000 for lower-ranking organized criminals.
He said he has enough money from his presidential campaign and the contributors would be disappointed if he returns them.
The source said the crime lords inside prison who pledged millions on Duterte and Dela Rosa’s head include four Chinese drug bosses and Filipino crime lords whom he identified as a certain alias Qwek Qwek, a gang leader and a convict who once operated a “shabu flea market” in Manila.
“The people inside are going crazy. They do now know how serious Duterte is in his threat to kill drug lords inside prison,” the source said.
“He [Duterte] should be more careful with the Filipino drug lords because they have more contacts outside. They have easy access to a hit man unlike the Chinese convicts who have only money,” the source added.
Dela Rosa, on the other hand, challenged the drug convicts to a duel.
He said the pot money raised by the crime bosses that could go as high as P1-billion should go to him if he wins.
“Man versus man. Let’s draw,” he said.
“I will kill you one by one and if I am lucky, the pot money will go to me,” he said adding that he will use the money to build a big rehabilitation center for drug users.