Press Release
July 19, 2006

Incidence of jail break and other anomalies becoming frequent

Senator Manny Villar, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Illegal Drugs, says that with the jailbreak incident at the medium-security compound of the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) on Tuesday night, the need to implement reforms in the country's jail system, particularly in the security aspect, becomes even more urgent.

According to Villar, "It is alarming to note that jailbreaks, whether successful or not, are getting frequent and in most cases they are a result of laxity in security measures and other operational or administrative loopholes. We should thoroughly review the jail management procedures and re-train jail personnel in security procedures."

Nine inmates of NBP escaped while on their way back to their medium security cells following their trip to the NBP hospital. So far, only four of the nine who bolted have been recaptured. Those who remain at large are Raul Guimba, Alex Panida, Jojo Punzalan, William Osotio and Arvic Valentino.

"The jail authorities, in fairness, are quick to conduct investigations whenever jailbreaks and other anomalies occur. But this is counterproductive also. In order to prevent such things from happening again, stricter measures should be implemented. In some cases, merely reprimanding or firing the erring individuals is not enough," adds Villar.

Based on reports, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) is already investigating the jailbreak incident and has cited operational lapses as a possible cause. BuCor Director Vicente Vinarao has also been quoted as saying that the staff and shift commander on duty when the escape occurred could be dismissed from service.

Last year, Villar"s committee investigated the following jailbreak attempts: at the maximum security compound and at the Camp Bagong Diwa. The committee also looked into the alleged corruption in Manila City Jail and the riot in Malabon City Jail.

Villar earlier filed Senate Bill 680 that seeks to institute prison reforms and impose penalty for violations. Among the prohibitions that Villar noted on his bill are: on giving special or privileged treatment to some prisoners; proliferation of drugs or other vices within the prison; failure by the officer to account for a prisoner or to make an inventory; among other reforms.

Villar cites on his bill that there seems to be glaxity in our correctional system and he is recommending for a periodic and systematic inventory of all prisoners.

Villar also filed Senate Bill No. 682 that seeks to increase the penalty for violation of infidelity in the custody of prisoners both with respect to connivance with or consent to evasion through the negligence of officers charged with the duty prisoners' custody particularly in cases where the escape was made for money or other consideration. The penalty will be increased from prision correcional to prision mayor.

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