Sen Bong Revilla could’ve had VIP treatment in jail had he and his entourage just kept their mouths shut

Filipinos today are gleefully scrutinising, “debating”, and exchanging trivial factoids on the minutiae of the manner with which two popular Philippine Senators, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, are being detained by the state on “plunder” charges — the physical conditions of their jail cells, what they’re having for breakfast and lunch, how they look in their mugshots, and what sorts of reading materials they will be soaking up as they while away their days there. This is another one of those typical Philippine media circuses (which mainstream media and its cadre of “civil society” social media “activists” are only too eager to propel and ride upon) that can work for or against anyone depending on how well they play the game.

There are things money can buy even in prison.

There are things money can buy even in prison.

Thanks to the showbiz meldorama that Revilla and his starlet wife Cavite Representative Lani Mercado surrounded the whole affair with, the Filipino masses have been treated to what effectively amounts to political reality TV throughout Revilla’s journey to prison. The irony in this strategy which seems to fly over these celebrities’ heads is that the main thing about jail time that is causing Revilla grief is the challenge of circumventing prison rules to allow him access to some creature comforts his family are only too willing to provide him from the outside — better ventilation (possibly airconditioning) to relieve his heat-induced migraines, better food, etc. Recall that Revilla’s wife Mercado refered to a personal project to do a “makeover” of Revilla’s prison accomodations. Trouble is, it is now that big a challenge for Mercado to make that happen precisely because of the close public scrutiny their showbiz styles of managing this personal crisis of theirs has attracted.

Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Learn more

Normally, well-to-do and high-profile Filipino prison inmates do occassionally manage to buy a bit more leniency from prison administrators. Some of them are even allowed weekend passes outside of the facility. That is because they do all that quietly, outside of the public’s narrow line-of-sight and below the radar of the country’s schizophrenic media. Recently, for example, the discovery of VIP treatment being given to drug lord Ricardo Camata, leader of the Sigue Sigue Sputnik gang by personnel at New Bilibid Prison (NBP) resulted in the sacking of Chief Supt. Fajardo Lansangan and 12 prison guards in early June this year.

Camata and several other inmates had reportedly been allowed to have themselves confined in a private hospital supposedly to seek medical treatment not available within the NBP without authorisation from the Justice Department. On a fact-finding visit on orders of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III even found out that starlet Krista Miller was allowed to visit Camata in his private room there where she reportedly “stayed for more than an hour.” And here is a piece of info that emerged out of that whole fiasco that Revilla and Estrada will likely find very interesting…

Baraan said they will also look into reports that some convicted drug lords have luxurious lifestyles inside their prison cells.

Chief Insp. Roque Merdegia Jr., head of the Philippine National Police’s Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force (AIDSOTF) Legal and Investigation Division, on Tuesday said some inmates have luxury items like flat screen television sets, air-conditioners, and mobile phones in their cells.

Merdegia said that although there is no available network signal inside prison cells, one convicted drug lord was able to use his mobile phone inside his cell, with his own network connection.

The lesson to Revilla in particular is pretty obvious at this point. If he and his wife had just kept their big celebrity mouths shut and entered the prison system with quiet dignity they would likely have had a better chance of getting similar VIP treatment. Too late for that, though. They’re now under the spotlight being shined by a “vigilant” mob thanks to Revilla’s tele-whining.

But there is hope!

The thing with the Filipino people is that they are a very forgetful and easily-distracted lot. And they are led by flaky “thought leaders” who hail mainly from the new A.D.D. generation that is a product of 21st Century techno-child-rearing. If Revilla and Mercado quit their yapping and allow the circus to wind down, they can likely start squirreling in a few more creature comforts for themselves under the radar. If they are lucky, a new circus may erupt on another national “issue” that can by then suck in any remaining precious bandwidth from the narrow attention spans of the wannabe vigilantes breathing down their necks. To answer that familiar rhetorical question, that is exactly what they can hope for. They just need to think outside the square of their showbiz-imprisoned minds.

Now that his pal Jinggoy is in jail to keep him company, Revilla might even learn some important lessons in the way Jinggoy had conducted himself throught this drama, as the Inquirer editor observes

[…] between the two friends now spending time together in detention, Estrada’s demeanor is the more potentially dangerous one. Yes, Revilla has millions of fans who will follow his fate. Yes, he is pushing the buttons his support base respond to: the fall in his personal circumstances, the support of his loving family, the sheer entertainment value of his legal saga. But it is Estrada’s look of anger and hurt that might generate a backlash, move his own supporters to take to the streets.

We should remember that it was the 2001 arrest of Estrada’s father, deposed president Joseph Estrada, which led to the outburst of violence right outside Malacañang Palace on May 1 that year—the misnamed “Edsa Tres.” The mass following of his father has contracted over the years, but it has remained potent enough to elect members of his family to the Senate and to carry him to second place in the 2010 presidential elections. It is a sorry mistake to underestimate his clout or that of his family, or the Estradas’ capacity to make political capital out of what they allege as political persecution.

Revilla may have grabbed more airtime and social media space than Estrada in the turbulent first days after their surrender (his wife, Rep. Lani Mercado, even played a role in directing public attention to her husband’s reduced circumstances inside Camp Crame), but it is possible that Estrada’s silent sullenness will be the lasting image from this first, extraordinary week.

Hopefully, the days these Senators spend in prison will be spent learning stuff, so that, at least, something productive may come out of this whole experience that adds new value to Philippine society beyond the mere showbiz glitz and prayerful posturing that have become standard drama fare for the suddenly-“victimised”.

16 Replies to “Sen Bong Revilla could’ve had VIP treatment in jail had he and his entourage just kept their mouths shut”

  1. The big action star! Tough guy! Yeah right. What a joke! Behaving and whining like a little girl instead of taking it like a man.

    What a pussy! What a drama queen!

    Brits would call you a “cunt”.
    Aussies would probably call you a “poofter”.

    Filipinos just call you “your honor”.

    1. So let’s all learn from this example where Australia Prime Minister Abbott greets a citizen… and the citizen greets him back.

      1. haha…love it. Imagine that in the Philippines. Almost certainly arrested for breach of some bullshit law. It’s one of our national sports in Oz…verbally bashing politicians.

  2. I doubt keeping quiet would have net Bong and Jinggoy any VIP treatment since they are political enemies. Look at GMA: she’s quiet, but she’s getting unjust treatment since they refuse to give her bail due to the case against her is weak.

    Political enemies for the yellow administration is more of priority in order to build up the TUWA…er TUWID NA DAAN for 2016. Drug lords and other high profile won’t give Roxas pogi points for 2016, but destroying potential enemies’ image should give the yellow back party one less rival to worry about.

  3. Money; especially your taxpayer money can buy a thieving politician luxuries in prison. Even women sexual encounters. You can have an air conditioned suite; same as a five-star hotel suite. Good food, TV entertainments, even servants and nurses, at ytour call.
    Who would not want to steal; if that is the punishment?
    The Prison Guards are corrupt themselves…

    So, it is fun to steal taxpayers’ money. You will get: luxuries, a suite, and an array of women companions in your cell…fun in the Philippines…

  4. Why are luxuries even an option in jail? Shouldn’t all inmates be treated equally, like the criminals that they are? Why are they even allowed to practice their professions while in jail? Something is indeed unfair and downright wrong and corrupt with the entire picture that is the justice and by extension the penal system in our country.

  5. A just punishment for a thief is to take back what he/she has stolen…and then apply the correct punishment so as to make the thief remember not to do it again.

    This is not rocket-science and need not be a long drawn out affair. Gavel to gavel? Two weeks, TOPS. Get on with it already.

    Oh, wait! This is the ‘Fail’-ippines and anything getting done amounts to a lifetime of more…WAITING!!!!

    The Amputuans have still NOT be put on trial and it is almost 5 years since that happened. It is disgraces like this that make the countries criminal justice system an International joke.

    Santiago almost becoming an ICC judge, HA!!! Looks like they woke up just in a nick of time for that disaster to be averted.

  6. Bong for Amanpulo for some R&R

    Pay the witnesses
    Pay the lawyers
    Pay the judges
    Pay the police
    Pay the prosecutors
    and everyone can go back home to bed and sleep happily ever after.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.