The most common diseases in prison are cholera and tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is four to five times more prevalent in prisons than on the outside, where even there it causes 63 Philippino deaths per day.
Overcrowding, lack of ventilation, and lack of drinking water lead to the spread of disease. Prisoners died of tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases1.
Getting along in the overcrowded prisons in the Philippines in Le Temps, 6 May 2016 (in French). ↩
The prison service offers activities to prisoners
Opportunities for entertainment and learning are infrequent.
Still, some prisons manage to develop activities, which are varied: classes in morality offered by religious organisations, choirs, dance classes or workshops in manual activities, such as repair work or painting1.
Through dance, inmates of the Cebu prison have become famous. Videos of their choreographies can be seen on the internet 1. They participate, in 2010, in promoting “This is it” when they are contacted by Michael Jackson’s choreographer. Tourists and visitors can attend their shows once a month. A souvenir shop at the prison sells items made by the inmates.
A televised cooking contest show takes place, in 2012, at the New Bilibid prison. It is part of a reintegration program that trains prisoners for a trade in anticipation of their release and encourages camaraderie between different gangs.
President Rodgrigo Duterte, elected on May 9, 2016, hopes to re-establish it. During his presidential campaign, he announces his intention to put an end to drug trafficking by shooting down tens of thousands of people.
On January 31, 2017, Amnesty International published a report on the high number of summary executions commited by order of the government. Police officers and even private citizens are authorised to kill anyone suspected of selling or using drugs. Official statistics count 2,551 deaths at the hands of the police and nearly 4,000 deaths occurring in unexplained circumstances since Duterte came into power.
Victims are usually defenceless. They are shot down even as they are surrendering. Some are children. Third parties denounce them and no investigation takes place before their execution. The police fabricate evidence, rob victims and write false incident reports. They recruit paid assassins to carry out executions.
Amnesty International has denounced a possible crime against humanity: a war against the poor, who are systematically targeted. Amnesty International describes an “economy of murder.” Police officers are paid per confrontation, secretly and in cash, with a price for each person implicated. They receive no bonus for arrests.
Gener Rondina’s relatives tell the story of his assassination. A large group of police officers entered his house. He stated that he was ready to turn himself in and asked them to spare his life. The officers made all the witnesses leave the room. From outside, they heard shots and then watched as the police officers took his body away. Inside the house, there was blood everywhere. Items of value (computer, watch, cash) had disappeared and were not included in the inventory of possessions drawn up by the police.
Most political prisoners are being held in pre-trial detention. They are housed with other prisoners and in the same conditions.The organisations endeavour to defend political prisoners charged with common crimes. The government and human rights organisations do not share the same definition of political prisoner. The authorities fabricate evidence. They sometimes keep people imprisoned beyond the length of their sentence.
The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) list 1,326 political prisoners at the end of 2015. In most cases, these are prisoners accused of crimes against national security. To this list, the BJMP adds those prisoners with high-risk profiles, who are accused of crimes linked to political opinion. These people are incarcerated in a special maximum security section. They belong to political groups, often armed, who oppose the government: The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA), the National Democratic Front (NDF) the Moro Islamic Front for National Liberation (MILF), the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Jemaah Islamiya (JI) and other extreme-right and extreme-left groups.
From 3-10 December 2016, activists organise a fast of solidarity in which prisoners and militants take part in support of the 401 political prisoners taken into custody on 31 October 2016: activists accused of belonging to rebel groups and who are being held under false charges. They were arrested in the context of the Communist army rebellion. In theory, the government has agreed to their release, but they remain in prison. Judicial processes are slow and more importantly, political statements are inconsistent.
Juvenile prisoners are separated from adults
Women are held in different facilities.
The only prison facility intended for women serving sentences is the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong. It is overpopulated, housing 2,273 prisoners in space meant for 1,500 in April 2015. “Individual” cells contain four beds. Common areas, such as the common room and the cafeteria have been converted into dormitories 1.
The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) houses women in 459 prison facilities.
In 2013, over 90% of the women are incarcerated for non-violent crimes, most often connected to drugs (51.8%) or property (35%). Sixty-one percent of the women are between 40 and 59 years old. Most of them are educated: 40% have a university degree, 30% have completed secondary-school studies. Only 15% are unemployed.
On April 28, 2016, after its periodic examination, the United Nations Committee Against Torture denounces acts of violence inflicted on persons being arrested or detained.They are routinely beaten and kicked, subjected to electric shocks and simulated drowning (water boarding). One reporter for the Committee stated, “Persons deprived of their liberty were systematically exposed to various forms of torture. There were forms of torture applied to many parts of the body and they should be called atrocities.” She attributes these abuses to a faulty justice system, the absence of systematic prisoner registration, and lack of regard for the right to a defense.
Secret detention centers provide a space where torture can take place (see the section on Arbitrary and Secret Detention). Governmental investigations begun in 2015 and started focusing on a location in the Laguna province, but are not making progress. Allegedly, police officers at that location spin a wheel to decide which method of torture to apply.
In May 2015, a video broadcast on national television shows the Carmona City Chief of Police striking a prisoner with a large board. He has since been relieved of his duties, states Amnesty International in its 2015/2016 report.
The prison service outsources the management of the facilities to private companies, either partially or fully
A plan to build a new prison is undertaken under the former government. The new facility would have a capacity of 26,880. Thus, it would be one of the largest prisons in the world. It would house persons being detained at the New Bilibid Prison and the women’s correctional institution. The government is offering a private company a contract of 1.1 billion dollars for the construction of the prison and its management over 23 years. The plan has been delayed despite interest expressed by three multinational corporations1.
“Philippines offers private firms $1.1 bln tender to build, maintain jail” in Reuters, 16 March 2015 and “Three Philippine firms in race for $1.1 bln prison. project” in Reuters, 26 June 2015. ↩
Number of escapes
Early 2017 has seen a series of escapes. Kidapawan prison is attacked at the beginning of January 2017. Some one hundred armed men enable 158 prisoners to escape. According to authorities, they belong to a dissident faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). One guard dies during the two-hour confrontation1.
In February 2017, thirteen prisoners being held at a police station jail in San Fernando gain access to metal-cutting tools, and escape by sawing through the bars. They were being charged with drug-related crimes[^grills].
[^grills]:″Thirteen escape in prison break near Manila ″ in Al Jazeera, 26 February 2017.
Philippines: Massive escape after an armed attack in a prison on RFI, 4 January 2017. ↩
Individual acts of protest are recorded
In October 2016, a protest against the director of the Quezon prison becomes a riot. The prisoners are protesting housing all drug trafficking suspects in a single dormitory. The director wants them all to participate in the same specific program that includes therapy, exercise, and spiritual activities. The prisoners climb up to the roof of one of the buildings and begin throwing things. A special team is called in to back up the guards. The riot lasts over two hours. Four guards and 35 prisoners are injured. As a consequence, prisoners’visiting rights are suspended. The plan for confinement continues as planned1.