MANILA - Eight inmates have died due to dehydration at the New Bilibid Prison after authorities allegedly cut off clean water supply, a group representing families formerly on death row said Tuesday.
The group along with volunteers also decried the alleged human rights violation at the national penitentiary amid authorities' crackdown on illegal drugs and contraband.
Since Oct. 9, the Bureau of Corrections has suspended visitation privileges of inmates, cut off the delivery of clean water, and destroyed prisoners' sleeping quarters, according to Dolores Pangilinan, wife of an inmate and head of Samahan ng mga Pamilya na Nasa Death Row.
The BuCor, under the new leadership of Gerald Bantag, is demolishing illegal structures inside the national penitentiary.
"Sa'min kasi na pamilya, di namin tinututulan 'yung paglilinis nila. Ang tinututulan namin at 'yung pinaglalaban namin ay 'yung karapatang pantao ng inmates," Pangilinan told ANC's Early Edition.
(For us families, we are not against their clearing operations. What we're fighting for are the human rights of the inmates.)
"Tao din naman sila eh, 'yung mga pangunahing pangangailangan sana naman hindi naapektuhan 'yun."
(They're people too, we hope their basic needs are not affected.)
The BuCor has also implemented a stricter system for inmates who get medicine from their families, according to Pangilinan, whose husband has gone for 12 days without his maintenance medicine.
Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the Commission on Prison Pastoral Care of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said demolishing prisoners' sleeping quarters would "not accomplish anything but will cause more problems."
"It is something the government ought to provide. They have to have sleeping quarters, which the government is not able to provide. Walang beds (there are no beds) that they could lie on," he said.
"What he (Bantag) has done is destroy all of those things, when in fact they were built by volunteers concerned for the plight of people in prison and by the families."
The BuCor should use its intelligence funds to find out prisoners smuggling contraband instead of demolishing all convicts' sleeping quarters, Diamante said.
"'Yung idadamay mo 'yung about 13,000 prisoners, aalisan mo sila ng tulugan mukhang hindi tama iyon," he said.
(If you will include 13,000 prisoners and remove their beds, that doesn't seem right.)
The Department of Justice, which oversees the BuCor, earlier said it would "closely monitor" the new leadership's implementation of reforms.