Valentine's day

Goodbye, Valentine’s Day: South Cotabato jail calls off love visits again

Rommel Rebollido

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Goodbye, Valentine’s Day: South Cotabato jail calls off love visits again
Because drugs got in, disappointed inmates will have to settle for a hug from their cellmates instead

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – It looks like Cupid’s arrow missed its mark at the South Cotabato provincial jail, and inmates won’t be getting conjugal visits anytime soon after all.

Their romantic and exciting Valentine’s Day plans went pfft faster than a balloon losing air on a cactus. 

Reason: illegal drugs managed to sneak back into the prison facility after authorities had eased strict visitation rules.

Officials put a stop to all the so-called love visits again that had been allowed ahead of February 14, more than two years after these were suspended due to the COVID-19 threat and the health restrictions that came with the pandemic.

Now, the disappointed inmates will have to settle for a hug from their cellmates instead.

A surprise drug test at the capitol-run South Cotabato Rehabilitation and Detention Center (SCRDC) on February 1 resulted in six positive results among 24 inmates, sparking concerns over drugs being sneaked into the provincial jail. 

Six inmates, previously housed in a single jail cell, have now been moved to separate facilities. 

Out of the six, five are behind bars for drug-related crimes, while the remaining inmate was facing trial for rape.

The move comes amid ongoing efforts to ensure the secure and efficient management of the incarcerated population.

The jail’s warden, Lory Celeste, said he canceled all visitations until an investigation could determine how drugs were brought into the facility. 

Three other inmates admitted to recent drug use, and prison officials are now investigating some guards who may have been involved. 

Celeste said the surprise tests were conducted after they received information about drugs being brought into Cell 21. 

A previous round of drug tests on January 30 had produced negative results.

In 2022, South Cotabato Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. ordered an investigation into the alleged unabated entry of illicit drugs into the jail, as reports suggested some guards were accepting bribes from inmates to allow contraband items into the facility. 

The SCRDC has a history of illegal drugs being brought into the jail through various means like hiding these near the private parts of visiting spouses, throwing over the jail fences, and placing the illegal substances inside canned goods. 

Celeste said additional CCTV cameras were needed to cover the entire jail premises. 

Previously, he had offered his own money as a reward for anyone who could report on jail guards accepting bribes.

In late January, the SCRDC had announced the resumption of the much-awaited conjugal visits for legally married couples on the condition that they would show marriage contracts, valid identification cards, COVID-19 vaccination cards, and health declaration forms.

Eight designated rooms had been prepared for the private visits that, until this week, had been scheduled on Saturdays and Sundays. –

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