Jail gang holds ‘noise barrage’ vs anti-illegal drugs policy

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – It was a “show of force.”

At least 200 members of the Batang City Jail gang detained at the Manila City Jail on Thursday, October 13, staged a “noise barrage” over a new policy that would segregate its inmates with cases related to illegal drugs.

“It’s not a riot, it’s a noise barrage. Dorm 9 and 10, groups belonging to the Batang City Jail (BCJ) went up to the roofs of their jail cells to petition, creating a commotion calling for the jail warden to resign,” Senior Jail Inspector Xavier Solda, spokesperson for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) told Rappler in a phone interview.

Officials initially said around two inmates and 4 BJMP personnel were injured as a result of the incident, which jail officials specifically refused to label as a “riot.”

But Superintendent Gerald Bantag, warden of the city jail, later admitted that at least 35 inmates were wounded. Of the 4 jail officials, at least one was supposedly injured because he tripped while another was hit by the gate as they stormed the BCJ area.

According to Manila City Jail officials Jail Chief Inspector Antonio Gayagaya and Jail Senior Inspector Henry Fabro, inmates from the gang began climbing on the roof between 9 to 10 am on Thursday. The situation was “pacified” close to noon. In the aftermath of the “noise barrage,” jail officials seized “7 pieces of sharpened metal,” according to Solda.

Gayagaya noted that only a few BCJ members joined the “show of force” to oppose the scheduled segregation of inmates with drug-related cases. Other gangs did not stage similar protests. The Sputnik gang, for instance, underwent the “segregation” in the wee hours of the morning on Thursday.

Anti-drugs drive

The basis of the directive, according to Solda, was a memorandum dated August 26, 2016 entitled “Segregation of inmates with drug cases from inmates inside the jails.” Manila jail officials only discussed the memorandum during a meeting earlier this week.

Asked why there was an almost two-month gap between the release of the memo and its implementation in the Manila City Jail, Gayagaya explained that peculiarities in the city jail could have gotten in the way from its immediate implementation. The jail is designed to house 1,200 inmates but currently houses 3,927 detainees.

“The purpose of the segregation is to give the inmates who were jailed [for] substance abuse with proper interventions such as therapy programs, physical fitness programs, counseling, and spiritual enhancement activities,” said Solda in a statement.

The country is over 3 months into a nationwide “war on drugs.” Law enforcers, led by the Philippine National Police (PNP), have stepped up anti-illegal drugs efforts all around the country. Penitentiaries and jails have also joined anti-illegal drugs efforts.

In the Manila City Jail, for instance, Gayagaya said there have been cases wherein PET bottles stuffed with illegal drugs were thrown over its high walls into a “moat” surrounding the jail. Isolating those with drug-related cases, he said, would make it easier for jail officials to focus their anti-illegal drugs efforts to a specific area.

Gayagaya said the plan to segregate inmates will push through but at a later date. Inmates who refuse to be transferred or those proven to have instigated the “noise barrage” will be moved to the Manila City Jail annex in Bicutan, Taguig City.

Gunshots?

Both Gayagaya and Fabro initially denied that shots were fired during the incident, explaining that the sound of metal roofing materials could have been construed as gun shots. Locals and media on site early on said at least 3 gun shots were heard from inside the jail.

Bantag would later admit that he himself fired a shot gun during the “noise barrage.”

Bantag was only recently appointed to the Manila City Jail. Prior to his new post, he was jail warden of the Parañaque jail blast, which claimed the lives of at least 10 inmates. – Rappler.com