MANILA, Philippines - Gangs inside the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa have threatened to stage a riot if special cells or "kubols" inside the prison's maximum and medium security compounds are demolished, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Thursday.
In an interview with TV Patrol, de Lima lamented that prison gangs, and not the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), have been running Bilibid facilities.
"Totoo po iyon na may banta ng riot, although ang plano ko talaga after ma-dismantle, ay hintayin ko na muna ang action plan ng BuCor," she said.
The justice chief has placed the kubols' demolition on hold pending the BuCor report, which she expects to be submitted within 2 to 3 weeks.
De Lima said the gangs were behind the construction of the kubols, which came into light following reports of alleged VIP treatment granted to rich and influential inmates.
"Mark [kubols] po iyan nung teritoryo," she said.
She added that she was dismayed with what she discovered at the Bilibid following her surprise inspection last May 14 and May 16.
"Iyung gang system, masyadong malakas na. Limited na naging supervision ng BuCor. Doon ako hindi nasisiyahan," de Lima said.
"Iyung mga gangs, sila na ang nagpapalakad ng mga building. Mali po iyon. BuCor pa rin ang dapat mangasiwa," she added.
The justice secretary believes that money changes hands in the use of the kubols.
"Naging source ng pera, business," she said. "Mayroon talagang ilang kubol na masyadong espesyal ang dating... that they belonged to moneyed inmates."
De Lima, Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas, and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas have met with gang leaders to discuss the demolition of the special detention cells.
She said the gang leaders asked for reconsideration.
They also denied reports that the kubols cause congestion inside the prison and are used mainly by rich prisoners.
De Lima said she wants to assess the effects of having the kubol system inside Bilibid.
"Kailangan makita ko talaga advantage, disadvantage ng kubol system," she added. "Itutuloy ko ang decision na idismantle kung maraming disadvantage."