All that was put on hold by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia after Friday’s near-riot in the quadrangle where inmates were rehearsing for their monthly public dance performance.
“We will see if they’re ready to behave in an orderly and disciplined manner, then we will resume,” Garcia told reporters yesterday.
“We will again allow some of these privileges. These are privileges, not rights.”
Sketchy reports said inmate Carillo Balueza brandished an improvised ice pick for unclear reasons and was mobbed by fellow inmates in the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC).
Garcia called it a “minor” incident, but immediately locked down the 1,600-inmate facility and suspended visitation rights, dance rehearsals and communal meals.
Detainees are not allowed outside the cells. Meals are sent to their cells, said Jose Marie Gastardo, Capitol consultant on jail matters.
Only he and the governor are authorized to release information about the jail, said Gastardo.
Radio dyAB reported that inmates were not served breakfast yesterday. Detainees who peered outside their cell windows signaled to a reporter that they were not fed breakfast as punishment.
The commotion in the CPDRC in barangay Kalunasan, Cebu City was the latest sign of disorder in the facility.
A year ago, an inmate was beaten to death by fellow detainees.
Last month, Governor Garcia replaced the warden and his assistant after two inmates escaped while being escorted to court hearings. In October last year, there was a jailbreak. A murder suspect slipped out of CPDRC.
Garcia also suspended a jail guard, who was caught on a TV news video having lunch in a restaurant last Feb. 8 with the inmate he had just escorted to a murder trial hearing, former Aklan mayor Alfredo Arsenio.
When the fight broke up last Friday, inmate Balueza had bruises and minor head injuries. He was placed in an isolation cell.
“What can you expect from a facility which has over a thousand inmates?” said Governor Garcia.
“We’re not running a nunnery or a pilgrim center here. You would have to expect that now and then incidents like this.”
Garcia was in Moalboal town yesterday with Capitol department heads for a planning session.
She said inmates have to observe discipline in the jail in exchange for being “the most well-fed, well clothed, and most spaced inmates in the entire world”.
Unlike the Cebu city jail which is run by police guards, CPDRC is under the jurisdiction of the Province of Cebu, with the governor as the official jailor.
Garcia said detention prisoners elsewhere want to be committed to the CPDRC where facilities are better.
“Their cells are not pig pens. These are cells of 12 with its own toilet and shower. And all that I ask in return is that they strictly observe our rules and discipline must be implemented at all costs,” she said.
Garcia denied that the Friday commotion was related to inmate Calvin Tan, who was convicted a day earlier in court as the Chinese “financier” of the secret shabu laboratory in Mandaue City.
Every last Friday of the month, the Capitol schedules a free public viewing of the inmate’s dance performance in the CPDRC quadrangle.
“The safety and security of the public must be given priority,” she said.
“We just had that incident, it’s a minor incident but as I said, any incident will automatically mean the suspension of privileges and other activities which will involve the public.”
After Friday’s scuffle, inmate Balueza was treated for bruises and minor head injuries.
The 26-year-old detainee from Carcar City is facing an attempted murder case.
Gastardo said he will ask a psychologist to examine him.
A surprise inspection was made in the jail after the near-riot. Prison guards confiscated a rice cooker, a scissor and some improvised ice picks and other sharp objects.
CPDRC inmates became an Internet sensation in 2007 after their dance version of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was posted on YouTube.
Jackson’s choreographer, Travis Payne, visited the jail last year and recorded a dance video with inmates for the DVD release of Jackson’s “This is It” concert under an exclusive arrangement with Sony Entertainment. /By Carmel Loise Matus, Correspondent