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MANILA, Philippines – For some prisoners, life was really more fun in the Philippines – even behind bars.
In an operation that rattled a nation already used to scandalous tales of corruption, Philippine officials saw for themselves the lavish and sometimes, gaudy abodes of 19 inmates in the Maximum Security Compound of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.
During the operation, government authorities confiscated over P1 million in cash during body searches of 16 convicts.
Police also found a gamut of other things that are supposedly not allowed inside Bilibid: “shabu” and other illegal drugs, firearms, drug paraphernalia, firearms, flat screen TVs, sex toys, pornography, luxury items, and even a stripper bar and Jacuzzi spread. (READ: Crime lord enjoys jailhouse rock)
The inspection, held in the wee hours of the morning on Monday, December 15, was led by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. De Lima inspected the prison again on Friday, December 19. (Editor’s note: Rappler obtained these photos from government authorities)
The plan began sometime in 2013 when several Philippine law enforcement and investigative agencies worked together to check and put a stop to the suspected illegal activities inside the prison: the use of illegal drugs, smuggling of contraband items, and corruption of jail personnel.
More than 300 operatives from different government agencies entered the maximum security prison on Monday, leading to the extraction of the 19 “high profile” or “high risk” inmates:
- Vicente Sy
- Eugene Chua
- Sam Li Chua
- George Sy
- Joal Capones
- Tony Co
- Herbert Colangco
- Peter Co
- Amin Buratong
- Clarence Dongail
- Tom Chua
- Rommel Capones
- Jojo Baligad
- Willie Chua
- Michael Ong
- Jacky King
- Willy Sy
- Noel Martinez
- German Agojo
Another inmate was supposed to be extracted but was still confined in a hospital.
For authorities, the congestion of the prison makes its already sorry state even worse. Some 22,000 inmates are currently stuffed into a facility designed for 3,000. As a result, jail authorities are unable to separate the so-called “high profile” and “high risk” inmates from the rest of the population.
Those inmates end up lording over others. And then there’s the issue of corrupt jail officials colluding with moneyed – and sometimes, even non-moneyed – inmates. (READ: Why anomalies happen in Bilibid)
The 19 “VIP” inmates searched during the operation have since been transferred to different facilities as officials dismantled their “kubols.”
Separating the 19 from the rest of the pack, authorities said, would hopefully lead to the demise of the syndicates they led from within prison. (READ: DOJ: Transfer to NBI doesn’t violate rights of prison VIPs)
But the December 15 operation is only one battle won. In a press briefing held a day after the raid, the Palace acknowledged that the war is only beginning.
“There are many loopholes and a lot of practices over the past years that were made permissible, and the administration is currently determining what these are,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.