WITH the assassination of journalist Percival Mabasa revealing, among other sordid things, that the country’s New Bilibid Prison could be the headquarters of an appalling “Murder Inc.,” Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla now has much public support behind him to pursue his plans to relocate the prison from its present location in Muntinlupa to at least three sites in the Visayas and Luzon.
The country’s national penitentiary was relocated in 1940 from the Spanish-era prison in what is now downtown Manila to Muntinlupa. That area was very sparsely populated and officially rural, with only 10,000 residents because of its hilly terrain, unsuitable for rice farming. Now Muntinlupa is classified as a highly urbanized city with 600,000 residents, and over a million daytime population.
The growth of metropolitan Manila and the building of the South Luzon expressway during the Marcos era spurred the development of Muntinlupa as a residential area for middle- and even upper-class subdivisions and the consequent sites for workers servicing those villages, commercial areas, and small and medium factories. With the country’s population growing fast after the war, so did the crime, expanding Bilibid’s prison population from the 3,000 it was designed to house to over 30,000.
The fact that it was for decades in one location (“territory” as it were) made Bilibid’s population (i.e., prison officials and inmates) develop its own “culture,” a full-fledged institution even if a criminal one. The prisoners had organized themselves into gangs (“tribes”) that struck myriad arrangements (“treaties”) with the “rulers” (guards and their bosses) to keep themselves as comfortable as they could while enriching their jailers.(more…)