Exactly a month after the riot in the New Bilibid Prison on October 9, another deadly skirmish rocked the national penitentiary last Monday, November 9, that left three inmates dead and 64 others injured. In the October 9 riot nine inmates were killed and seven injured.
On October 13, four days after the first riot, Director General Gerald Bantag of the Bureau of Corrections brokered a truce between the Sigue Sigue Sputnik and Sigue Sigue Commando gangs. According to Bantag, leaders of the two groups assured him that there will be no more brawls in the future.
So, why did it happen again?
The investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation as ordered by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra should go into the root causes of the deadly clashes among armed gangs inside the compound.
Of course, we know that the main reason for this is congestion in the compound; it houses nearly 29,000 prisons in a facility that can accommodate only 6,435 prisoners.
But there are nagging questions that should be answered by prison authorities. How come that guns and other deadly weapons have entered the compound? During the pandemic, visits by kin of inmates have been suspended and yet warring gangs have weapons to kill each other. Is it possible that prison security officers are involved in the smuggling of weapons into the prison facility?
According to the Bucor, there are 12 gangs in Bilibid, the biggest of which are the Sigue Sigue Sputnik, with 4,474 members; Genuine Ilocano, with 2,887; and Batang City Jail with 2,326. Since officials have identified these gangs, why can’t they not disband these groups and put their leaders under solitary confinement?
Studies have found that the gang culture at Bilibid is the result of the government’s inability to provide vital services to inmates. Gangs are seen as important social structures in prisons, as they provide protection, financial support and a semblance of family among members. This should be addressed to.
There is no need for another Senate investigation on the riots. Since Bucor is under him, Justice Secretary Guevarra can conduct a full investigation and fire prison officials found guilty of negligence and probably hold them criminally liable for the deaths of inmates.