By Jane Obana
FilAm Star Correspondent
A New Bilibid Prison (NBP) security measure now requires inmates’ visitors to have their picture taken before entering the facility. The photos will then be kept in a database for record purposes, an NBP official said.
The database will consist of a photo of the visitor indicating their name and their relationship to the inmate. This way, NBP officials can determine if the visitors are using fake identities and stop the smuggling of contraband into the facility. The new measure was ordered by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and started last December 24 when the most number of visitors arrived to NBP.
Fifteen computers were set up by the NBP to accommodate all the visitors and to speed up the process of identification. This is the first time the NBP used computers. In the past visitors were just asked for identification and then verified by a copy of Master list.
GMA News reported that NBP Superintendent Richard Schwartzkopf said visitors may email or send a fax to NBP if they are not in the visitor’s Master list. Another measure implemented last year does not allow cellular phones, tablets and other mobile devices inside the jail facility.
In its efforts to confiscate contraband in the Maximum Security Prison of the NBP, the BuCor conducted yet again an inspection seizing illegal weapons. In their eighth “Oplan Galugad” earlier this month, the BuCor also confiscated illegal drugs, sex pills and electronic gadgets.
This puts the jail guards and other NBP personnel to doubt. The same time last year former Justice Secretary and now senatorial candidate Leila de Lima dismissed NBP officials following the reports of VIP treatment among convicted drug lords in the maximum security prison.
Among the officials relieved of duty were an NBP Maximum Security Compound Guards Commander, Special Patrol Unit chief, Inmates Visitation Services Unit Head and Maximum Security Compound OIC.
It was also on the second quarter of last year that news of luxurious living among inmates, with “kubols” (improvised shelters) complete with entertainment systems were revealed. Bilibid raids seizing concert equipments, illegal drugs, Jacuzzi and even a strip bar confirmed reports of the lavish accommodations in the country’s maximum-security prison.
Last year, an investigation was started due to reports of a convicted robbery gang leader who was able to record a music album while in jail. Herbert Sy, also known as Herbert Colangco, was convicted in 2009, recorded and released a music album, shot music videos inside his quarters in the Bilibid and posted it on YouTube. Sy was able to sell up to 15,000 copies according to a report by GMA News last year.
Seventeen other high-profile convicted drug lords were also reported living a luxurious lifestyle inside the prison then transferred to a new NBP building in August last year.
The jail facility is now just a jail facility that incarcerates; not coddle those who think they can work the system. Now there’s just a bunk bed, a sink, and a closed-circuit television camera. “It’s a new environment. This is a real prison quite different from their former kubol (villas). Now they’d be in actual cells, unlike before when they were in a community,” BuCor Director General Ricardo Rainier Cruz III told Inquirer.