The Manila Times, 06 June 2011
BY JAIME PILAPIL
A MONEYED inmate at the New Bilibid Prisons, the country’s national penitentiary in Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila), may either become a “mayor” or “governor” of a “brigada” (loosely translated as gang) but for a price (read: cold cash).
“In the past, these mayors and governors are elected by the inmates in every selda [cell] or brigada [gangs are usually housed in separate buildings]. But now it is different, you can actually bid for the position.
The one who bids the highest, gets the post,” an official of the Bureau
of Corrections told The Manila Times on condition that he not be identified for fear of backlash from prison administrators.
The corrections bureau supervises Bilibid and seven penal colonies spread across the country.
The national penitentiary consists three security compounds—maximum, medium and minimum.
Convicts serving more than 20 years are housed in maximum, which has 14 buildings.
Inmates who are serving less than 20 years are placed in medium (five buildings).
Those prisoners with less than a year left in their sentence stay in
minimum (two buildings) until they are released.
According to the office of Supt. Ramon Reyes, as of June 3 (4 p.m.), the National Bilibid Prisons houses a total of 19,320 inmates.
In the maximum security compound are 11,515 of the convicts.
There are 6,083 of them in the medium security compound and 489 in
minimum security compound, where 109 are staying out.
In Philippine penal lingo, a security compound is also called “camp.”
So, there are three camps in each penal institution.
There is a fourth camp but only at the national penitentiary.
It is called Reception and Diagnostic Center, where all convicts spend their first 60 days after conviction.
At the diagnostic center, each inmate undergoes thorough physical and psychological examination.
Each inmate is evaluated and eventually assigned to a camp in penal colony.
Since the center functions as half-way house to the camps, the inmates are not segregated by gang affiliation there.
Of the 14 buildings in the maximum security compound, only 13 buildings are organized as brigadas.
Building 14 is within the compound but it has a separate gate accessible via the main road.
It is exclusively for drug lords and other hardened criminals.
The building also functions also as disciplinary area for inmates who violate strict rules and regulations.
It is where you will find secluded cells or “bartolinas.”
In each building, there is a governor but a building can have two or more mayors depending on the number of gangs.
There are 14 gangs existing at the 14 buildings, among them Sigue-Sigue Sputnik, Sigue-Sigue Commandos and Batang City Jail.
A building can house two gangs but they are separated by a thick cement wall.
The mayors and governors report to the overseer, a civilian employee.
The mayor and governor are in charge of maintaining cleanliness and order in the brigada.
They act also as jury once a complaint is lodged against an inmate or if a prisoner committed an infraction of the rules and regulations of the building.
The mayors and governors, who are indispensable in each brigada in maintaining order, they enjoy some perks, like being allowed to build a “kubol” (hut) outside of the buildings that function as their offices.
They are also responsible for sports festivals and special programs, which could either be religious or civic in nature.
Since they remit some amount to the overseer, the mayors and governors are allowed to earn by giving special treatment to a subordinate.
For example, they can allow a fellow prisoner to build a kubol inside the building that is not made from nipa alone but also from some linen as room divider, so as to give some privacy to the inmate.
The mayor operates a “motel” inside the building.
This motel, actually a bed covered on the sides with thick curtains, is where an inmate and his visiting wife stay for some hours.
Of course, the couple has to pay some amount, like P20 for a 20-minute stay.
Each building features an open area, where the inmates can spend their free time.
Such area is called “pondohan,” where the mayors usually gather to discuss how to distribute drugs and other contrabands.
The mayor and governor remits to the overseer monthly an amount not less than P500 (it used to be only P200).
Thirteen of 14 buildings of the maximum security compound are run by 102 mayors.
Multiply P500 one-hundred-two times and the mayors make the overseer richer by P51,000, which he partitions to his bosses—the national-penitentiary superintendent and the corrections-bureau director.
The medium security compound has 67 mayors. Multiply 67 with P500 and the overseer will get P33,500 monthly.
The minimum security compound has 6 mayors. Multiply 6 with P500, and the overseer will get P3,000.
The mayors and the overseer make a lot of money from each hut built either outside the selda or inside the brigada.
A rich inmate can build his hut outside the selda for a P25,000 one-time fee, while a hut inside the building costs P7,000.
Of course, the superintendent and the director are not left out—the overseer has to ask for their permission for each hut built but for a monetary consideration.
Since a rich inmate has his hut already, he could have all the amenities of a regular house or room.
He can have television, air-conditioning unit, an electric gas range, electric fan or even a desktop computer complete with Internet connections.
For you to enjoy these amenities, you have to bring them in but pay an entry fee and foot a monthly electric bill.
Naturally, payments for these bills go to the overseer and then to his bosses.
The Bureau of Corrections has set aside P50 for the daily food subsistence of each inmate.
Each selda has its own cook, also known as “ranchero” but usually the rationed food does not taste good.
What the ranchero would do is to recook or “repair” the food to make it palatable to the taste of the inmates, especially to the mayors and governors.