All Bilibid inmates safe from Taal ashfall: BuCor

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 14 2020 12:56 PM

MANILA – The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) on Tuesday said all inmates in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa are safe following Sunday’s eruption of Taal Volcano.

“Like in other places in Metro Manila [Sunday], the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City experienced an ashfall. Thankfully, it was only light and manageable,” BuCor Director General Gerald Bantag said in a report to the Justice Department.

Bantag said he ordered BuCor superintendents and staff to be on standby 24/7, upon learning of the imminent volcanic activity.

“The persons deprived of liberty (PDL) have adequate accommodation inside the camps to protect them from such elements. If needed, partnerships with local hospitals may provide needed medical attention for worst case scenarios,” it added.

More than 28,000 inmates are currently serving their prison sentences in Bilibid, based on BuCor statistics as of November 2019. It was built to house only 6,435 prisoners.

This figure includes 410 returnees who were initially released on good conduct time allowance (GCTA) but whom the President ordered to surrender following a change in the interpretation of the GCTA provision.

"Returnees are safely accommodated under a covered court with enough beddings including mosquito nets and blankets,” said Bantag’s report.

In November last year, some Bilibid returnees complained of “subhuman” conditions inside the national penitentiary. 

Senator Leila de Lima, who is detained on drug charges at a separate detention facility inside Camp Crame, claimed 29 NBP prisoners died in October last year due to various illnesses like pneumonia and pulmonary tuberculosis.

BuCor has not confirmed the figures but the chief of the NBP Hospital said that, on average, 1 inmate dies everyday, calling the situation “critical.”

But Justice Undersecretary Deo Marco said Tuesday there are no reports of any problems or health-related issues as of now.

"I asked if they need any help but for now they just need to do a lot of cleaning," he said.

Taal Volcano’s steam-driven eruption Sunday reached all the way to Northern Luzon due to 111-kph southerlies blowing northward, based on data from the Japanese Meteorological Agency.

Flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City were immediately cancelled and work in government offices and classes in schools were suspended Monday amidst concerns of hazards caused by the ash fall. 

It also led to scarce supplies and a surge of prices of face masks in Metro Manila and neighboring areas.

But scientists from the University of the Philippines clarified Tuesday there is no need to buy face masks for people living in Metro Manila.