The filing of the murder charges against Bureau of Corrections Chief Gerald Bantag and Deputy Bucor Security Officer Ricardo Zulueta and several other inmates who were involved in the killing of journalist-broadcaster Percival Lapid does not end the sordid case involving inmates behind bars.
The charges also raise, Santa Banana, many other issues showing how our prison system has deteriorated, making a big mockery of our prison system!
For one thing, the foremost prison of the country, the New Bilibid Prison, has in fact a big criminal organization composed of inmates behind bars capable of killing anybody outside of prison upon the instigation of somebody who has control over them, my gulay!
“Onli in da Pilipins,” as they say.
The double murder of Lapid and one Jun Villamor inside the NBP brings to fore to what extent the criminal system has so deteriorated that upon the bidding of somebody who has control of the prison inmates can go so much as to have the bidding to kill somebody by hired assassins outside the NBP.
My gulay, never in my imagination have I concocted a scenario like this, where inmates behind bars can commit murder outside of the prison.
This sordid affair brings to fore several issues.
First, there is an immediate need for the Department of Justice, which is overall in charge of the country’s prisons, to overhaul the prison system.
When the NBP upon inspection revealed hundreds of beer cans, it points to the fact that not only the inmates themselves have become a big criminal organization.
We are told that those hundreds of cans of beer could in fact be sold within prison at the unbelievable price of P1,000 a piece. Unbelievable, but true.
Other contrabands have been discovered, like cellphones, gadgets and also knives and, Santa Banana, illegal drugs like sachets of shabu.
So, life must go on, as far as the prison inmates are concerned.
I recall that during the incumbency of President Pnoy Aquino, drug lords at the NBP continued with their nefarious activities like engaging in the trade of illegal drugs.
Santa Banana, there was even that case of a drug lord having his own television set and his own kingdom behind bars so much so that then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima got implicated reportedly upon the instruction of former President Duterte, since De Lima was then the foremost critic of the former President, so much so that De Lima has been in detention for almost five years now.
My gulay, to think that things would change under Duterte !
Another issue that has come to fore is the existence of crime syndicates behind prison bars.
This is frightening, since people who have the power and the means to have anybody killed by people behind bars can do so anytime, anywhere.
There are even suspicions that Bantag isn’t the only mastermind in the Lapid murder.
My gulay, if this can happen at the foremost prisons of the country like the NBP, it can also happen in smaller prisons, like in Manila and Quezon City, a reflection how our prison system has deteriorated.
This needs the immediate attention of Justice Secretary Crispin “Boying” Remulla and President Marcos Jr. himself.
There is also the issue brought to fore by the discovery by investigators about the Bucor Chief Bantag as the alleged brains of the killing of broadcaster Lapid that inmates themselves can reportedly finance the killing of anybody, that prisoners can afford to spend as much as P550,000 for the hiring of guns-for-hire by alleged middlemen.
Santa Banana, never in my waking moments have I known that prisoners have kind of cash in their possession behind prison bars.
Indeed there is a need to reform the prison and the justice system nationwide, not only by the justice secretary but President Marcos Jr. himself.
Oh yes, the discovery of some 200 unclaimed corpses stored in a funeral parlor close to the NBP itself is unbelievable.
This means that people have died behind bars without their relatives knowing it, and just left alone to rot in a funeral parlor unclaimed, with some of them having been there for over a year now.
How they died, we’ll never know.
There are now plans in the aftermath of the Lapid and Villamor deaths to relocate the heavily congested NBP to make it regional, one for Luzon, another for the Visayas and another for Mindanao.
Relocating the NBP has long been the dream of many administrations.
I only have to recall the plan under the Duterte administration to relocate the heavily-congested NBP to Laur, Nueva Ecija.
In fact, three big land developers , San Miguel, DMCI and Megaworld have pre-qualified but surprisingly, under then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, the plan was scuttled for some unknown reasons.
This was truly unfair to those developers who prequalified and must have spent for that purpose, but it might be a good idea to find out why.
There are also plans to segregate those drug lords who are incarcerated from ordinary prison inmates, to prevent them from carrying on their nefarious activities of trading in illegal drugs.
It might be possible that they are still doing it, carrying on with their trade on illegal drugs.
Just when and how all these things can happen remains to be seen. What is imperative is the need to reform the prison system and not to have criminal organizations existing behind prison bars.
If my recollection does not fail me, I think there was a Philippine film depicting prisoners behind bars being released for a day or two with the mission to assassinate targeted political figures.
But, that’s pure fiction.
Santa Banana, now we have inmates in the NBP involved in criminal activities upon the instigation of some brains behind them.
In the case of Bantag and another BuCor security official implicated in this sordid Lapid murder, the problem now is how to find them and arrest them since they have suddenly disappeared. (Editor’s Note: No warrant of arrest has, at this writing, been issued by a court of law, which is the body that will issue such warrant after determining a prima facie case against respondents.)
In the case of the Manila and Quezon City jails, that’s another problem which Secretary Remulla must look into — over-congestion ,where inmates take turns in order to sleep.
Since many of them are still on trial, it is really pitiful that the prison conditions they have to endure are like a punishment already.
May I suggest that Secretary Remulla and his staff visit the Manila and Quezon City jails to see for themselves the kind of prisons they have become.
He will be surprised that we in the Philippines have that kind of jails.
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Health experts are bothered by the series of orders from President Marcos Jr. to relax the mandate of using face masks outdoors and indoors, especially by students in public schools.
To this end, I cannot but agree with the health experts who know better than ordinary people because of the fact that COVID-19 pandemic, an unseen enemy, is still very much with us.
I worry about people going around without face masks, since it is a fact that the new Omicron sub-variant is very transmissible.
It is also a fact that there are carriers of the COVID-19 virus who are asymptomatic and who go around without face masks, transmitting the virus to others around them.
This is especially true among children in public schools who often embrace each other and hold hands.
As an elderly person who is vulnerable and immuno-comnpromised, I am very wary of people going around without face masks.
To me and my wife, knowing the danger, we take extra precaution in observing all the health protocols and avoid going to crowded places like restaurants and malls, even parties.
There is no substitute for caution and prevention.