MUNTINLUPA CITY - In a bid to end gang culture that sparks violence in prison facilities, the Bureau of Corrections on Wednesday launched the Oplan Bura Tatak.
Under the program, prison tattoos of inmates who are also members of various gangs are removed to give them a fresh start.
Oplan Bura Tatak was conducted simultaneously at the New Bilibid Prisons, Correctional Institution for Women, and all penal farms nationwide.
Tattoo artist Bimbo Salvador is among many artists called by BuCor to participate in the Oplan Bura Tatak.
“Kung ano ang easiest na magagawa namin. Dapat makarami kami kasi nasa 20,000 atang inmates,” Salvador told ABS-CBN News.
(Whatever is easiest for us to work on. We should be able to work on as many as possible because I think there are 20,000 inmates.)
He went on, “Noong una, kinabahan ako. First time ko sa Bilibid, sa Muntinlupa. Pero na-realize ko na may mako-contribute ako sa ikabubuti ng inmates. Gumanda ang pakiramdam ko.”
(At first, I was worried. It's my first time in the Bilibid, in Muntinlupa. But I realized that I can contribute something for the good of the inmates. So, I felt better.)
Tattoo artists wore face masks, face shields, gloves and personal protective equipment while working with the inmates.
Their tools are also sanitized.
Doctors and nurses supervised the removal of gang members’ tattoos.
“Papatungan ang mga tatak nila. Physical contact yun. Sisiguruhin nating mabigyan sila muna ng anti-tetanus. Kung magkaroon ng infection, masuportahan at bigyan ng antibiotics,” said Dr. Henry Fabro, NBP Hospital director.
(Their tattoos will be covered. That entails physical contact. We'll ensure that they get anti-tetanus shot. If there will be some infection, we'll provide support such as antibiotics.)
“Sakali magkaroon ng reaction sa ginagawa nating pagbubura ngayon, madaling ma-address at madala sa ospital,” he added.
(In cases there will be reactions, we easily address it and bring them to the hospital.)
The bureau hopes that by slowly dismantling gang culture, inmates will be able to work as one community instead of dividing themselves into factions.
The activity comes three weeks after nine inmates were killed in a riot that erupted inside the NBP.
The riot was between rival gangs Sputnik and Commando.
Aside from the fatalities, seven other 'persons deprived of liberty' were injured in the fight.
“Ang objective talaga nito ay para wala nang iringan sa members ng mga pangkat. Ang pangkat ay parang pamilya na nagpoproteksyon sa kanilang members... May gantihan. Mga riot. May namatay noong nakaraan. Peace and order talaga,” BuCor director general Gerald Bantag said of the program.
(The objective is really to end melees between members of different factions. These factions behave as regular families do, they protect their members... So, there's retaliation. There are riots. There were fatalities during the last one. So, it's really for peace and order.)
At the NBP maximum security compound in Muntinlupa City, 120 inmates had their gang tattoos removed on Wednesday.
Thousands more will also submit themselves to the program in the coming weeks.
“Okay naman. Sa ganun, ang magkakalabang pangkat hindi na mag-aaway-away. Nagkaroon ng konting aral. Napakahirap din para sa pamilya namin,” said Jacob, who has been a member of the Sputnik gang for 11 years.
(It's fine. With this, the different gangs won't be fighting anymore. Some lessons are learned. It's also hard for our families.)
“Okay lang. Maganda para mawala na ang gulo at alitan ng mga pangkat,” another inmate, Franco, said.
(It's okay. It's nice so there will no longer be trouble between gangs.)
“Sumusunod lang kami sa tinuturo sa amin ng nanunungkulan sa amin. Wala kaming magawa po kasi tinanggal po. Ito ang sabi sa amin ng nanunungkulan ng aming pangkat,” added Caloy, a member of the group Batang Manlalakbay (Batman).
(We are just following our leaders. We can't do anything... This is what our leaders tell us to do.)
An hour after the program was launched, some inmates turned over to BuCor officials their guns and bladed weapons to prove their sincerity in ending violence inside the national penitentiary.
“Lahat ng armory nila, unti-unti nang ibibigay at isu-surrender sa amin. Bakit? Kasi wala nang mga pangkat,” Bantag said.
(They are slowly turning over to us whatever is in their armory. Why? Because the groupings are gone.)
“Although magkakaroon pa rin ng gulo, pero hindi na katulad ng gantihan ng mga pangkat,” he added.
(Although there might still be violence, but it won't be the same as when gangs retaliate each other.)
But Bantag warned, should inmates once again put gang tattoos, it will have an impact on their application for early release due to good behavior, as well as other privileges while in detention.
“Pag nagkaroon uli ng tatak - binura na at nagpa-tattoo na naman, eh di yung GCTA (Good Conduct Time Allowance) niya, affected na ngayon. Bawas. Hindi siya qualified sa ibang privileges,” the BuCor chief said.
(If there are new tattoos, after the removal, their GCTA will be affected. There will be demerits, and the won't be qualified for other privileges.)