At first, I really didn’t understand what the big “shock” over the 5-star-hotel-like trappings laid out for “special” inmates in the Philippines’ main prison facility, the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila was all about. Stories about the top-notch perks enjoyed by the country’s prison royalty have been the stuff of legend for the longest time.
But then on second look, perhaps it was the sheer audacity with which these perks were funded and developed within the prison that shocked the civil sensibilities of the chattering classes. A music video recorded in — get this — a music studio for inmates built within the prison complex is available for viewing on YouTube!
Now that is shocking!
Nevertheless the real question that people need to be asking now that all that has been laid bare before the media following a “raid” conducted by the Justice Department recently is: Whose heads will roll?.
Of course there is no shortage of after-the-fact “recommendations” from the phalanx of “experts” that have descended upon the now-trending issue…
“The military should take over the prison, and all the people involved from top to bottom must be fired,” Dante Jimenez, founder of the Manila-based watchdog group Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, said.
“It’s unfair that even after conviction, we’re still not sure that justice has been served,” added Teresita See, head of the Manila-based Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order.
But of course.
I wouldn’t hold my breath though. No less than the Philippines’ Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Bucayu is pleading ignorance of the shenanigans going on in his own prison system. And here’s another shocking revelation: Justice Secretary Leila De Lima is buying that plea. De Lima has reportedly cleared Bucayu of any accountability over the scandal and is instead going after middle management…
De Lima, however, said she directed NBP executives and officers – from Superintendent Roberto Rabo down to the jail guards – to submit their respective explanations as to why they should not be held administratively liable over the illegal drugs, mobile phones and gadgets seized from 20 drug lords operating from inside the prison.
“I will require all of them to explain why these contrabands were these inside the maximum security compound, and depending on their explanations we determine who will be charged administratively,” she said in an interview.
It’s no wonder that the Philippines has become world-renowned for its criminal no-justice system. Top execs and cabinet-level officers are hardly ever held accountable for much of the country’s most appalling crimes — the underlying irony here being that nothing ever gets done without top-level prodding. This is a country after all where murders don’t get solved within a reasonable timeframe unless orders come directly from the President. The corollary also holds true: murders also don’t get solved by order of a top government exec such as the President.
Indeed, the list of cases of appalling deprivation of justice is long and getting longer by the day. A politically-motivated massacre of 58 people allegedly perpetrated by Maguindanao warlord Andal Ampatuan remains unresolved after five years, for example. Even more astounding, the 1983 murder of national hero Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino Jr, father of the current President of the Philippines himself, Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III hasn’t been solved despite that current presidential term entering its fifth year!
Justice in the Philippines?
The first and last words of that sentence belong only in a sentence that ends in a question mark. And the answer to that no-brainer question is pretty clear.
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