'Pork jail' more comfortable than regular cells

By Cecille Suerte Felipe, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 17 2014 03:23 AM | Updated as of Jun 17 2014 11:23 AM

MANILA, Philippines - There's no air-conditioning, but there's a ceiling fan and each room has its own bed, a small kitchen, and toilet and shower.

They’re no five-star suites, but the detention cells of the three senators who have been charged with plunder for their alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam are far more comfortable than the regular crowded, grimy and vermin-infested jails.

Members of the media were given a walk-through yesterday inside the facilities at the Custodial Center of Camp Crame, national headquarters of the Philippine National Police, which will serve as

temporary detention cells for Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr.

Each of the four newly built detention cells measures about four meters by eight meters, has a ceiling fan and a single bed with foam mattress.

The cells also have tiled floors, and the walls are painted cream and the ceiling, white.

There is a kitchen sink and a bathroom with enclosed shower.

There is also a sliding window with metal grills beside the door, but there is no provision for an air conditioning unit.

Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, PNP-Public Information Office director, said the facilities were intended for officers of the Headquarters Support Service (HSS) and the Custodial Center.

“Although these facilities are bigger than ordinary detention cells, let me point out that these are intended for our officers. But with the development, we had to adjust, convert and make way for the order of the court,” Sindac said.

He said the stay of the three senators will be temporary since they will eventually be transferred to another detention facility.

Although the three senators are not considered flight risks, Sindac said they have to put grills on the windows in compliance with the standard of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

Sindac also showed to members of media the two newly constructed bungalow-type structures that will serve as administrative and processing offices.

“The structure for processing office could be used as visitors’ area,” he said.

A steel gate will be set up between the detention and processing areas to ensure that visitors will not be able to enter the detention facilities.

Reporters observed that four layers of blue gates measuring about 12 feet high each were set up from the main entrance to the detention facilities.

The compound has a fence with barbed wire and is guarded by police officers with high-powered firearms.

“Aside from the tower sentries, there are also ground personnel who will secure the area 24/7. There are at least two CCTV (closed-circuit television) cameras installed in the facilities,” said Superintendent Mario Malana, head of the Custodial Center.

In the event the accused in the pork barrel fund scam are detained, they will be allowed to entertain visitors from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily except on Friday, which is for conjugal visit.

Malana said the center’s other facilities could also be converted to accommodate 51 other accused in the alleged misuse of the priority development assistance fund of lawmakers or the congressional pork barrel.

Sindac earlier said the PNP Custodial Center could accommodate 130 detainees.

At present, there are only 70 inmates in the center.

Among those detained are Abu Sayyaf Group bomber and financier Khair Mundos, who is wanted both by the Philippine and American governments for his alleged involvement in bombings in Mindanao, and Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon.

Other detainees are police officers implicated in the 2013 Atimonan rubout case led by Superintendent Hansel Marantan, and the group of former policeman Rizal Ali who is accused of killing police general Eduardo Batalla during the Cawa-Cawa siege in Zamboanga City in 1989.