LESSEN OVERCROWDING: AQUINO FOR MOVING BILIBID INMATES TO IWAHIG

As a short term and immediate solution to the problem of overcrowding at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, President Benigno Aquino III is considering the transfer of inmates to the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Puerto Princesa City, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said. “The President sees Iwahig as the most feasible site that could have short-term results. We need only to improve or enhance the perimeter fences or enclosures of Iwahig and put up additional facilities, buildings, structures to house additional inmates,” she told reporters in a recent interview. She said the President wanted “immediate steps” taken to address the congestion, which he considers “one of the most severe problems” at the NBP. The prison, according to De Lima, has more than 17,000 inmates, double its intended capacity. The secretary said the project will start as soon as the executive branch provides funds for the inmates’ transfer. Set up by the Americans in 1904, the Iwahig penal complex is located on a 37–hectare property in the southern part of Puerto Princesa. It has farms and orchards irrigated by a river and cultivated by the prisoners. There are about 4,000 inmates at Iwahig, most of whom are not locked up. Their families are also allowed to live with the prisoners in some settlements. The prison farm and parks, as well as its American-era buildings, have become a tourist attraction. Visitors can go fishing, firefly–watching and shopping at souvenir shops selling handicraft made by the prisoners. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO: Murderers wander with machetes at idyllic Philippine prison

IWAHIG, Philippines – One hundred convicts armed with machetes wander through a vast prison without walls in one of the Philippines’ most beautiful islands, a unique approach to reforming criminals. Two token guards with shotguns slung on their shoulders relax in the shade nearby as the blue-shirted group of inmates chop weeds at a rice paddy at the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm on Palawan island. But Arturo, who is 21 years into a life sentence for murder, has no plans to escape, preferring to keep his chances of an eventual commutation or even a pardon. “I don’t want to live the life of a rat, panicked into bolting into a hole each time a policeman comes my way,” the 51-year-old inmate, whose full name cannot be used in keeping with prison regulations, told Agence France-Presse. Surrounded by a thick coastal mangrove forest, a mountain range and a highway, the 26,000-hectare (64,000-acre) Iwahig jail is one of the world’s largest open prisons, more than two times the size of Paris. A single guard sits at its largely ceremonial main gate, routinely waving visitors through without inspection. A shallow ditch, but no walls, is all that separates the 3,186 prisoners from the outside world. A mere 14 kilometers (nine miles) away is Puerto Princesa, a city of 250,000 people and a top tourist destination as the gateway to an island famed for stunning dive sites, a giant underground river system and beautiful beaches. A steady stream of local and foreign tourists visit Iwahig’s quaint, pre-World War II prison administration buildings and a handicrafts shop, which is manned by inmates who have made the items on sale. A few hundred hectares of the land is devoted to rice paddies, which sit picturesquely on either side of a fire-tree-lined dirt road. Ducks, goats, cattle and egrets feed quietly on newly harvested plots.
Fish ponds, coconut plantations, corn fields and vegetable plots are scattered across the prison, although the bulk of the land remains covered by forest and mangroves. Penal colony’s harsh history--US colonial rulers established Iwahig in 1904 for political prisoners and Manila’s worst inmates, seeking to isolate them in what was then a sparsely inhabited frontier about 600 kilometers (370) miles from the nation’s capital. READ MORE...

(ALSO) 6 Nat'l artists 2014, Nora snubbed: Nora Aunor’s fans, backers ain’t giving up yet

The fight is far from over, as far as the Superstar’s supporters are concerned.
Inevitably, the noninclusion of actress-producer Nora Aunor on the roster of newly declared National Artists has resulted in numerous complaints among artists and ordinary citizens alike—with the most vehement objection coming from a National Artist and the chair of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). Some protesters took to Facebook and Twitter to express their dismay. But National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera took the case to the media, mincing no words in his statement. Protest insult --“The Office of the President owes the CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines) and the NCCA an explanation for the insulting disregard of the choice of Nora Aunor for national artist. I ask fellow national artists and other artists to protest this insult to the rigorous process of choosing national artists,” Lumbera said. Past National Artists serve on the final deliberation panel, which consists of the chairs and the joint boards of the CCP and the NCCA. This group chose Aunor along with the five who were eventually declared National Artists: choreographer Alice Reyes (dance); komiks novelist/artist Francisco Coching (posthumous-visual arts); poet Cirilo F. Bautista (literature); composer Francisco Feliciano (music); and architect Jose Maria Zaragoza (posthumous-architecture, design and allied arts).
Composer Ramon Santos (music) was also proclaimed a National Artist but he was elected as early as 2009. Popular choice --Lumbera recalled that Aunor finessed the final deliberation. NCCA Chair Felipe de Leon Jr. recounted that Aunor received more than the required number of votes (majority plus one). “Nora is a popular choice,” Lumbera told the Inquirer in a phone interview on Sunday. “She was chosen as National Artist not by fans, but by a panel of experts who discussed, dissected and deliberated on the nominations thoroughly.” READ MORE...

ALSO: Accused 'pork" solons have better treatment than ‘Yolanda’ victims

The lawmakers accused of plunder get better accommodations than the survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” a group that supports the victims of the storm that devastated large swaths of the Visayas last November said on Saturday. Mark Louie Aquino, a spokesperson for Tindog People’s Network, a group of relatives, supporters and survivors of Yolanda (international name: “Haiyan”), said the comparison was based on statements of the Philippine National Police and the actual size and amenities of the bunkhouses built by the government for the survivors of the supertyphoon. “The detention cells intended for lawmakers accused of stealing public funds are twice bigger than the intended bunkhouses built for Yolanda victims,” Aquino said. He said People’s Search was part of a bigger support group for typhoon survivors. People’s Search is supporting 400 Yolanda survivors, he added. ‘Coddling’ erring politicians --He said the accommodations prepared for Senators Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile in the PNP custodial center when compared with the bunkhouses for the typhoon victims in Eastern Visayas send the message that “this administration seems to be coddling officials accused of corruption while neglecting the welfare of the Yolanda survivors.” Aquino pointed out that the detention cells “were not only bigger, but also provided with basic furniture that the Yolanda survivors did not receive from the government.” “Each cell has a single metal bed with foam mattress, a side table and electric fan, which the survivors did not get from the government,” Aquino said. He said 12 storm families were thrown together in a 17.28-square-meter shelter in the bunkhouses, while each of the three senators indicted for pocketing tens of millions of pesos in public funds would be held in a 32-sq-m detention cell. Concrete vs coco lumber --The lawmakers’ detention cells, he said, were made of concrete, while the bunkhouses were made of coconut lumber, plywood and GI sheet. The floors of the lawmakers’ cells are tiled, while those of the bunkhouses are finished with rough concrete, he said. The typhoon victims in the bunkhouses share four toilets and baths with concrete floors, while the lawmakers’ cells have private toilets, baths with new shower heads, tiled floors and ceramic sinks, Aquino said. Although the lawmakers’ food is rationed and no cooking is allowed, their cells have kitchens and cabinets, while Yolanda survivors share kitchens in the bunkhouses.THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO: Miriam blasts double-standard treatment of prisoners, detainees

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago yesterday slammed what she described as double standard between ordinary inmates and affluent, VIP prisoners in the country’s penal system. “How can there be justice in our correctional system when we have a double standard between poor and rich inmates?” the feisty senator said in a statement. Santiago cited recent news reports of rich high-risk prisoners in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) staying in air-conditioned rooms, enjoying contraband supplies such as illegal drugs and alcohol, and even taking in sex workers. Santiago made the observation a day after her colleague, Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., surrendered and was detained at Camp Crame Custodial Center which – despite being far from the extravagant jail accommodations she described – was still more comfortable than a regular jail. Revilla, a popular TV and movie actor who belongs to a prominent political family, is facing plunder and graft charges before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the alleged misuse of state development and anti-poverty funds informally referred to as “pork barrel.” PUNISHMENT, NOT VACATION “These prisoners are supposed to be experiencing punishment for their crimes, not taking a vacation. They are making a mockery out of the justice system by turning our jails into their own private resorts,” said Santiago without making any specific reference to an individual. According to the lawmaker and former trial court judge, some VIP (very important person) inmates in NBP “reportedly drive around the penitentiary grounds in golf carts, electric motorcycles, and tricycles.” It was also reported that the maximum security compound has its own dress shops, wet and dry markets, fruit stands, as well as facilities such a jazz bar, plaza, and tennis court. SENATE PROBE These reports prompted Santiago to file Senate Resolution (SR) No. 525, calling for a Senate investigation on the anomalous situation in the national penitentiary. “The same thing is happening in other prison complexes in the country. If this can happen in a maximum security compound, who knows what else happens in other jails?” she said. ‘NO FRILLS PRISON BILL’ Santiago also filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1759, or the “No Frills Prison Bill,” to eliminate luxurious prison conditions by mandating average standard living conditions and opportunities for every prisoner. Santiago’s proposed law prohibits access by all prisoners to certain luxuries, such as TV-viewing inside cells, mobile phones and computers. It also imposes additional restrictions for prisoners serving a sentence for violent crimes.THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.


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Aquino for moving Bilibid inmates to Iwahig’


COURTESY OF explorerboyz.blogspot.ca by LakatswerongTatay: Iwahig is approx. 23,000 hectares of farming land (which used to be more than 40,000 before). Prisoners were classified as either maximum, medium, or minimum security prisoners. Murderers fall under maximum security. They are kept and guarded in houses. Medium security prisoners are the ones who are grouped by 10's to take care of and harvest 6 hectares of land. Minimum security prisoners are the ones who are going to be released soon. The Prison Without Barries.

MANILA, JUNE 23, 2014 (INQUIRER) As a short term and immediate solution to the problem of overcrowding at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, President Benigno Aquino III is considering the transfer of inmates to the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Puerto Princesa City, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said.

“The President sees Iwahig as the most feasible site that could have short-term results. We need only to improve or enhance the perimeter fences or enclosures of Iwahig and put up additional facilities, buildings, structures to house additional inmates,” she told reporters in a recent interview.

She said the President wanted “immediate steps” taken to address the congestion, which he considers “one of the most severe problems” at the NBP. The prison, according to De Lima, has more than 17,000 inmates, double its intended capacity.

The secretary said the project will start as soon as the executive branch provides funds for the inmates’ transfer.
Set up by the Americans in 1904, the Iwahig penal complex is located on a 37–hectare property in the southern part of Puerto Princesa. It has farms and orchards irrigated by a river and cultivated by the prisoners.

There are about 4,000 inmates at Iwahig, most of whom are not locked up. Their families are also allowed to live with the prisoners in some settlements.

The prison farm and parks, as well as its American-era buildings, have become a tourist attraction. Visitors can go fishing, firefly–watching and shopping at souvenir shops selling handicraft made by the prisoners. Jerome Aning

Murderers wander with machetes at idyllic Philippine prison
Agence France-Presse 11:51 am | Sunday, June 22nd, 2014 INQUIRER


Iwahig Prison-1
In this photo taken on June 6, 2014, inmates from the medium security compound work on a rice field at Iwahig prison in Puerto Princesa, Palawan island. Bounded by a mangrove forest-choked coast, a mountain range and a highway to Puerto Princesa city, 14 kilometres (8.7 miles) away, Iwahig is one of the world’s largest open prisons, as well as one of the country’s oldest correctional institutions. AFP

IWAHIG, Philippines – One hundred convicts armed with machetes wander through a vast prison without walls in one of the Philippines’ most beautiful islands, a unique approach to reforming criminals.

Two token guards with shotguns slung on their shoulders relax in the shade nearby as the blue-shirted group of inmates chop weeds at a rice paddy at the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm on Palawan island.

But Arturo, who is 21 years into a life sentence for murder, has no plans to escape, preferring to keep his chances of an eventual commutation or even a pardon.

“I don’t want to live the life of a rat, panicked into bolting into a hole each time a policeman comes my way,” the 51-year-old inmate, whose full name cannot be used in keeping with prison regulations, told Agence France-Presse.

Surrounded by a thick coastal mangrove forest, a mountain range and a highway, the 26,000-hectare (64,000-acre) Iwahig jail is one of the world’s largest open prisons, more than two times the size of Paris.

A single guard sits at its largely ceremonial main gate, routinely waving visitors through without inspection.

A shallow ditch, but no walls, is all that separates the 3,186 prisoners from the outside world.

A mere 14 kilometers (nine miles) away is Puerto Princesa, a city of 250,000 people and a top tourist destination as the gateway to an island famed for stunning dive sites, a giant underground river system and beautiful beaches.

A steady stream of local and foreign tourists visit Iwahig’s quaint, pre-World War II prison administration buildings and a handicrafts shop, which is manned by inmates who have made the items on sale.

A few hundred hectares of the land is devoted to rice paddies, which sit picturesquely on either side of a fire-tree-lined dirt road. Ducks, goats, cattle and egrets feed quietly on newly harvested plots.

Fish ponds, coconut plantations, corn fields and vegetable plots are scattered across the prison, although the bulk of the land remains covered by forest and mangroves.

Penal colony’s harsh history

US colonial rulers established Iwahig in 1904 for political prisoners and Manila’s worst inmates, seeking to isolate them in what was then a sparsely inhabited frontier about 600 kilometers (370) miles from the nation’s capital.

Prisoners were used to clear virgin rainforests for farming, which would in turn encourage migration from the archipelago’s more populous areas.

After the Philippines won independence post-World War II, those who had served out their term were also given the option to clear and own up to six hectares of land.

Up until the 1970s, the prisons had much tougher security than today, with chain gangs of inmates the norm.

Most other jails in the Philippines continue with brutal conditions, with inmates packed beyond capacity in dingy, airless cells and having to take turns sleeping.

A fresh breath of reform

But at Iwahig, and four smaller penal farms in other provincial areas, authorities have sought to take advantage of the open spaces to create conditions that encourage the rehabilitation of inmates.

“This (farm work) serves as their preparation for getting back into a free society once they are released. It helps them adapt back to life as free men,” said prison superintendent Richard Schwarzkopf.

Iwahig’s inmates mostly come from Manila’s main Bilibid prison, a far smaller facility that holds about 22,000 convicts and which requires periodic prisoner transfers to ease the over-crowding.

Instead of the squalid, sardine can-like cells of Bilibid, night quarters for most of Iwahig’s inmates are lightly guarded buildings that are bigger than a basketball court, surrounded by barbed wire rather than concrete or metal walls.


Iwahig Prison 2-1
In this photo taken on June 6, 2014, inmates from the medium security compound work on a rice field at Iwahig prison in Puerto Princesa, Palawan island. Bounded by a mangrove forest-choked coast, a mountain range and a highway to Puerto Princesa city, 14 kilometres (8.7 miles) away, Iwahig is one of the world’s largest open prisons, as well as one of the country’s oldest correctional institutions. AFP

About 50 lucky minimum-security inmates live full-time in straw-and-bamboo huts scattered along the penal farm, assigned to guard the crops, tractors and other implements.

There are just 150 maximum-security inmates who must work indoors and remain in a more tightly secured environment.

However, murderers and other previous maximum-security prisoners can qualify for the outdoors if they have served at least half their sentence and have a record of good behavior. A life sentence is regarded as a 40-year term.

Schwarzkopf said the modern approach to penology had been a success. He said less than 10 percent of Iwahig’s prisoners became repeat offenders after being released, lower than the national average.

The jail has also had no recent history of riots or mass breakouts.

Schwarzkopf said there had been just one breakout since he took over leadership of the prison in 2012: involving four inmates serving terms for murder, attempted murder and car theft.

Three of them were swiftly captured, according to Schwarzkopf, although he declined to say which one of the four remained at large.

Prominent Puerto Princesa lawyer Herminia Caabay said she also regarded Iwahig’s “humane” approach to inmates as a success.

“Riots are a sign of depression brought about by prison conditions. These usually happen at places where people are kept behind bars,” Caabay said.

Convicted drug dealer Gamay, 39, said he treasured his time working the land as it helped him keep his mind off his wife, who had left him for another man.

“It stops me thinking bad things,” said the stocky, tattooed former fish vendor, who began his 30-year sentence in Manila’s Bilibid but was transferred to Iwahig seven years ago.

Gamay said living at Iwahig had allowed him to dream and prepare for a successful life back in society.

“The work experience helps you learn to stand on your own two feet… I want to go back to selling fish and save up to build my own house,” he said.

Nora Aunor’s fans, backers ain’t giving up yet By Bayani San Diego Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:33 am | Monday, June 23rd, 2014


National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera (left) and NCCA Chair Felipe de Leon Jr.: Taking up the cudgels for Nora Aunor (inset). FILE PHOTOS

MANILA, Philippines–The fight is far from over, as far as the Superstar’s supporters are concerned.

Inevitably, the noninclusion of actress-producer Nora Aunor on the roster of newly declared National Artists has resulted in numerous complaints among artists and ordinary citizens alike—with the most vehement objection coming from a National Artist and the chair of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

Some protesters took to Facebook and Twitter to express their dismay. But National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera took the case to the media, mincing no words in his statement.

Protest insult

“The Office of the President owes the CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines) and the NCCA an explanation for the insulting disregard of the choice of Nora Aunor for national artist. I ask fellow national artists and other artists to protest this insult to the rigorous process of choosing national artists,” Lumbera said.

Past National Artists serve on the final deliberation panel, which consists of the chairs and the joint boards of the CCP and the NCCA.

This group chose Aunor along with the five who were eventually declared National Artists: choreographer Alice Reyes (dance); komiks novelist/artist Francisco Coching (posthumous-visual arts); poet Cirilo F. Bautista (literature); composer Francisco Feliciano (music); and architect Jose Maria Zaragoza (posthumous-architecture, design and allied arts).

Composer Ramon Santos (music) was also proclaimed a National Artist but he was elected as early as 2009.

Popular choice

Lumbera recalled that Aunor finessed the final deliberation. NCCA Chair Felipe de Leon Jr. recounted that Aunor received more than the required number of votes (majority plus one).

“Nora is a popular choice,” Lumbera told the Inquirer in a phone interview on Sunday. “She was chosen as National Artist not by fans, but by a panel of experts who discussed, dissected and deliberated on the nominations thoroughly.”

Lumbera decried Malacañang’s dismissal of the selection process. “We want to hear the President’s explanation.”

The proclamation that emanated from the Office of the President, however, noted: It “is well within the President’s power to proclaim all, or some or even none of the recommendees … without having to justify his or her action.”

Emily Abrera, chair of the CCP board, concurred, saying that “the President doesn’t need to explain anything.”

Lumbera acknowledged: “That may be true, but the general reaction of the people is that we need a clarification. The President should have the decency to tell us what happened.”

National interest

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the President’s choice of this year’s National Artists was based on national interest.

“We are certain that his decision was based on what will best serve the national interest because the Order of the National Artist gives recognition to those who excelled in the arts and letters, and embodied the goodness and nobility of the Filipino people,” Coloma said over Radyo ng Bayan.

De Leon encouraged Aunor’s supporters to start a campaign and “write to the President, to appeal for a reconsideration.”
“Concerned groups should initiate this move,” De Leon told the Inquirer in a phone interview on Sunday. “Even a President can change his mind.”

Abrera agreed: “People can appeal … in fact, there is an online petition now.”

She was referring to the petition started on Change.org by the Nora Aunor for National Artist movement. The online petition had gathered 1,960 supporters before it closed after exceeding its original limit of 1,000 a few days ago.

“Nora can be nominated again,” Abrera said.

The National Artist Search Committee/Secretariat convenes every other year.

Is Aunor’s case similar to that of Santos, who was also rejected by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo only to be reinstated by the Supreme Court?

“It looks similar at first glance, but [Santos’ case] reached the Supreme Court because there was grave abuse of power then. I don’t think the same issue (grave abuse of power) can be raised against the current President,” Abrera said.

De Leon and Lumbera disagreed with Abrera, saying that Aunor’s case is precisely the same as Santos’.

“Aunor’s name can be included in the next batch, and if the next President will not have any objection, she can become a National Artist,” De Leon said.

Reform

De Leon agreed with calls for a need to reform certain parts of the process—particularly, the involvement of politicians and the veto power of the President.

“The process should be shielded from politics. But it’s a presidential award,” De Leon said. “Also, the CCP and NCCA are government agencies.”

Lumbera recalled that, in 1989, during the time of the President’s mother, President Corazon Aquino, “she didn’t meddle in the decision of the joint boards of the CCP and NCCA”—even if one of the honorees then was National Artist for Music Lucrecia Kasilag, a known supporter of the Marcoses, political rivals of the Aquinos.

“Wala siyang pakialam (She didn’t meddle),” Lumbera said of President Cory. “It was expected that the President would respect the decision of the committee.”

Lumbera and De Leon addressed the “morality” issue that was reportedly used against Aunor.

“Issues of morality have nothing to do with the selection of national artist,” Lumbera said. “If you will study the lives of past National Artists, you can say that some were not exactly ‘moral.’”

Illegal drug possession

Aunor was arrested for illegal drug possession at Los Angeles International Airport in 2005.

De Leon dismissed “the morality, drug and gender” controversies as nonissues.

“The morality issue was raised during the deliberation, but it was quickly disregarded by the panelists and she eventually passed all the stages, including the final deliberation,” De Leon said.

“What stood out was that she deserves to be National Artist. Like what National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose said: ‘Nora’s performances are so exceptional that she makes even bad films look good.’”

Aunor’s name, along with those of the five other artists who eventually became National Artists, was submitted to Malacañang in October 2013.

On Friday night, the Palace proclaimed six new National Artists, leaving out Aunor.

Santos’ case

Composer Santos was conferred the honor National Artist for Music after a five-year wait. Santos was elected in 2009 but was dropped from the list by then President Arroyo, who added the names of komiks novelist Carlo J. Caparas, theater artist Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, architect Francisco Mañosa and fashion designer Jose “Pitoy” Moreno.

The proclamation of Santos’ fellow conferees in 2009—visual artist Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, fictionist Lazaro Francisco and filmmaker Manuel Conde—was likewise deferred because of the scandal.

Supreme Court ruling

The Supreme Court eventually upheld the elevation of Santos, Alcuaz, Francisco and Conde as National Artists, and voided the proclamation of Caparas, Alvarez, Mañosa and Moreno.

On Friday night, however, only Santos was proclaimed, while Alcuaz, Francisco and Conde were not mentioned.

‘In God’s time’

Boy Palma, Aunor’s manager, said: “We’re not giving up. Just the thought that many people believe that she deserves this recognition is enough for us. In God’s time perhaps.”

On Friday, the night of the proclamation, Aunor was on the set of her latest movie, Joel Lamangan’s “Hustisya,” an entry in the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, which will be held in August.

Lamangan told the Inquirer: “We never discussed the National Artist issue on the set. She remained focused on her work and she was so good in all her scenes that day.”

Aunor has three other indie movies in the can: Adolfo Alix Jr.’s “Padre de Familia” and “Whistleblower” and Perci Intalan’s “Dementia.”

“She is at the peak of her powers,” Lamangan said. “In our hearts, we know she is a National Artist.”–With a report from Christian V. Esguerra

Accused 'pork" solons have better treatment than ‘Yolanda’ victims By Nancy C. Carvajal Philippine Daily Inquirer 4:46 am | Sunday, June 22nd, 2014
 


Bunkhouses constructed in Barangay (village) Sagkahan, Tacloban City, for the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The lawmakers accused of plunder get better accommodations than the survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” a group that supports the victims of the storm that devastated large swaths of the Visayas last November said on Saturday.

Mark Louie Aquino, a spokesperson for Tindog People’s Network, a group of relatives, supporters and survivors of Yolanda (international name: “Haiyan”), said the comparison was based on statements of the Philippine National Police and the actual size and amenities of the bunkhouses built by the government for the survivors of the supertyphoon.

“The detention cells intended for lawmakers accused of stealing public funds are twice bigger than the intended bunkhouses built for Yolanda victims,” Aquino said.

He said People’s Search was part of a bigger support group for typhoon survivors. People’s Search is supporting 400 Yolanda survivors, he added.

‘Coddling’ erring politicians

He said the accommodations prepared for Senators Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile in the PNP custodial center when compared with the bunkhouses for the typhoon victims in Eastern Visayas send the message that “this administration seems to be coddling officials accused of corruption while neglecting the welfare of the Yolanda survivors.”

Aquino pointed out that the detention cells “were not only bigger, but also provided with basic furniture that the Yolanda survivors did not receive from the government.”

“Each cell has a single metal bed with foam mattress, a side table and electric fan, which the survivors did not get from the government,” Aquino said.

He said 12 storm families were thrown together in a 17.28-square-meter shelter in the bunkhouses, while each of the three senators indicted for pocketing tens of millions of pesos in public funds would be held in a 32-sq-m detention cell.

Concrete vs coco lumber

The lawmakers’ detention cells, he said, were made of concrete, while the bunkhouses were made of coconut lumber, plywood and GI sheet.

The floors of the lawmakers’ cells are tiled, while those of the bunkhouses are finished with rough concrete, he said.

The typhoon victims in the bunkhouses share four toilets and baths with concrete floors, while the lawmakers’ cells have private toilets, baths with new shower heads, tiled floors and ceramic sinks, Aquino said.

Although the lawmakers’ food is rationed and no cooking is allowed, their cells have kitchens and cabinets, while Yolanda survivors share kitchens in the bunkhouses.

FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Miriam blasts double-standard treatment of prisoners, detainees by Ellson Quismorio June 21, 2014 (updated)

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago yesterday slammed what she described as double standard between ordinary inmates and affluent, VIP prisoners in the country’s penal system.

“How can there be justice in our correctional system when we have a double standard between poor and rich inmates?” the feisty senator said in a statement.

Santiago cited recent news reports of rich high-risk prisoners in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) staying in air-conditioned rooms, enjoying contraband supplies such as illegal drugs and alcohol, and even taking in sex workers.

Santiago made the observation a day after her colleague, Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., surrendered and was detained at Camp Crame Custodial Center which – despite being far from the extravagant jail accommodations she described – was still more comfortable than a regular jail.

Revilla, a popular TV and movie actor who belongs to a prominent political family, is facing plunder and graft charges before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the alleged misuse of state development and anti-poverty funds informally referred to as “pork barrel.”

PUNISHMENT, NOT VACATION

“These prisoners are supposed to be experiencing punishment for their crimes, not taking a vacation. They are making a mockery out of the justice system by turning our jails into their own private resorts,” said Santiago without making any specific reference to an individual.

According to the lawmaker and former trial court judge, some VIP (very important person) inmates in NBP “reportedly drive around the penitentiary grounds in golf carts, electric motorcycles, and tricycles.”

It was also reported that the maximum security compound has its own dress shops, wet and dry markets, fruit stands, as well as facilities such a jazz bar, plaza, and tennis court.

SENATE PROBE

These reports prompted Santiago to file Senate Resolution (SR) No. 525, calling for a Senate investigation on the anomalous situation in the national penitentiary.

“The same thing is happening in other prison complexes in the country. If this can happen in a maximum security compound, who knows what else happens in other jails?” she said.

‘NO FRILLS PRISON BILL’

Santiago also filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1759, or the “No Frills Prison Bill,” to eliminate luxurious prison conditions by mandating average standard living conditions and opportunities for every prisoner.

Santiago’s proposed law prohibits access by all prisoners to certain luxuries, such as TV-viewing inside cells, mobile phones and computers. It also imposes additional restrictions for prisoners serving a sentence for violent crimes.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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