MANILA, Philippines – Inmates of jails inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City may soon enjoy a luxury not common in Philippine prisons – a television in each cell, care of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Speaking to personnel of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in the camp on Wednesday, October 18, Duterte promised he would foot the bill for installing televisions in each cell.
"We would want to give them everything but I told them, each and every cell would have a TV by the end of the month. That's what I can give you for now," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
This would mean high-profile inmates in the camp, like alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, will also get to enjoy televisions in their cells. Other notorious prisoners include Maute matriarch Farhana Maute, and suspects in the Maguindanao massacre.
Duterte did not drop by their cells during his visit, according to BJMP spokesman Senior Inspector Xavier Solda.
The President said he pitied the prisoners because they had nothing to help them while away the long hours in jail.
"Nakakaawa naman 'yung mga preso, walang libangan (The prisoners are pitiful, they have no form of entertainment)," he said.
There are at least 9 BJMP jails in Camp Bagong Diwa: Special Intensive Care Area 1 and 2; Metro Manila District Jail; MMDJ Annex 1, 2, and 3; Manila City Jail Annex; Quezon City Jail Annex; and the Taguig City Jail Male and Female Dormitories.
Kind words for inmates
Aside from promising them TV sets, Duterte had other kind words for prisoners in Camp Bagong Diwa, departing from his usual tough talk on criminals.
After praising them for their handicrafts, he said prisoners must be respected as human beings with families. He even shared a few personal details about prisoners he spoke with inside one of the jail.
"Like one of them, he has 6 children. It's a good thing the eldest is a teacher now. You know, they are only human beings just like us," said Duterte.
Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler
He said he would ask the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to help the prisoners market their handcrafted products so they would earn income.
He even wants a program that checks on the education of the inmates' children.
These sympathetic words depart from his previous threat-laden remarks about criminals, particularly drug dealers and users.
He has said that those involved in the drug trade are less than human and that he would give them a rope for Christmas so they can hang themselves. (READ: PH jail congestion rate soars to over 500% amid drug war)
In his Wednesday speech, Duterte said he is satisfied with the state of jails at Camp Bagong Diwa. Before the President's speech, he was able to tour the facilities and interact with some inmates in their cells.
"I was looking at the situation of the jails and they are okay, and I'm happy," he said.
"The situation is okay, they are comfortable, clean. I’m satisfied by the way it is being run by the BJMP," he added, before congratulating the bureau for a "job well done."
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.