JAILED drug lords have formed at least nine syndicates to lord it over 23,000 inmates at the National Bilibid Prison, openly selling illegal drugs in collusion with high-ranking prison officials, a House committee on justice investigation has found.
Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., who heads the panel, revealed the committee’s initial findings in an interview over radio dzBB Sunday.
Tupas said these rich drug lords were accorded special treatment and were housed in “kubol” with a second floor that was equipped with wi-fi and cellular phones used in their illegal trade.
Tupas did not name the drug lords or the prison officials involved pending the completion of the panel’s investigation.
He said a “barangay system” has been set up by the syndicates with each drug lord acting as barangay chairman, with more than 1,000 men under his command.
He said the nine syndicates may have been producing the shabu in a laboratory inside the NBP.
“The number one problem in the NBP is the illegal drugs trade and second is the congestion,” Tupas told dzBB.
He said the contraband was not being smuggled into the prison compound but being traded within the NBP and from the NBP considering that there were an average of 1,000 to 2,000 visitors daily at any given time.
“While the illegal drugs trade is done openly and the identities of the players are an open secret, the contraband comes and goes undetected because they have already set up a barangay system. The population is so large, so congested, it was impossible to monitor the movement anymore,” Tupas said.
He said there were already 23,000 inmates being housed at the NBP when the maximum capacity of the prison facility was 8,000.
Of the 23,000 inmates, some 13,000 who are serving life terms are confined in the maximum security compound, Tupas said. The compound is supposed to house only 4,000.
Tupas said there were only 36 jail guards that man the 23,000 inmates at any given time.
“So what the inmates did, they formed their own territory. There are now nine groups of syndicates at the NBP,” Tupas said.
“These syndicates are lording it over the inmates such that when there are drug deals that have gone bad and there were killings involved, no one talks, there are no witnesses. The jail guards did not see anything, either,” Tupas said.
Since big money was being made in the illegal drugs trade, the syndicates easily bribe the lowly-paid prison officials that in turn provide protection for the syndicates, Tupas said.
“The collusion between the nine syndicates and the prison officials is at the highest level. But we are not yet ready to name names until our investigation is completed,” Tupas said.
Tupas said the panel is conducting hearings to push for the strict implementation of the Bureau of Corrections Modernization Act that was signed by the President on May 24, 2013.
Within three months after the proposed measure became law, the implementing rules and regulations or IRR should have been crafted.
But it has been a year since the law was passed and no rules have been drafted, Tupas said.
The modernization law would have provided funds for the construction of facilities that would decongest the NBP and all prison facilities nationwide, beef up the number of jail guards and increase their pay so as to professionalize them, he said.
“Because of the congestion and the lack of jail guards, it is impossible to rid of the illegal drugs trade,” Tupas said.
Tupas urged the national government and the Justice Department to eradicate the illegal drugs trade in the NBP.
“The jail guards cannot do it. In fact, some of them are conspiring with the drug syndicates. It is now up to the government, the DOJ to do something and rid the NBP of the syndicates,” Tupas said.
“It is time to change the system. It is time for the government to implement the law. The law says the modernization should be done for five years. We have to start by 2015 so the modernization is already in place five years after,” Tupas said.
But Tupas also said the law could not be implemented next year because Congress has failed to provide funds under the 2015 budget due to the delay or the lack of the IRR.
Instead of reforming inmates, the country’s prisons are making them more hardened criminals, Tupas said.
Tupas said the panel would continue its hearings until the government agencies, led by the DOJ and the Department of Budget and Management are compelled to implement the modernization law.
A hearing is set on Dec. 9.
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