Inmates were sound asleep when shouts and banging at the iron gates woke them up at around 1 a.m. Tuesday.
Clad in full battle gear, agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Central Visayas (PDEA-7) raided the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) located in the hilly barangay of Kalunasan, Cebu City.
Detainees were herded to the open-air quadrangle and were asked to remove their clothes as the agents, with the help of police operatives and members of the Armed Forces’ Central Command, searched the belongings and rooms of the inmates one by one.
Among the contraband seized by law enforcers were 76 cellular phones; 19 medium-sized packs of shabu worth P30,000; a small plastic bag containing marijuana leaves; assorted drug paraphernalia that included lighters, rolled tin foil strips, scissors and a digital weighing scale; cash amounting to P92,000; bladed weapons; three DVD players; a tablet; laptop; passbook with a deposit of more than P300,000 and bank transaction receipts.
There was no need to secure a search warrant from the court since it was Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III who asked for the assistance of PDEA and the provincial police to conduct a greyhound operation (jail raid).
“I’ve been receiving text messages, I don’t know from where, from anonymous persons telling me nga duna’y drugs gihapon diha, nga involved ang mga prison guards although they didn’t give the names,” he said. “Unya kanang mga cell phone lagi gihapon,” Davide said.
(I received text messages that there are still drugs there and that prison guards are involved. And that there are still cell phones inside.)
Acting Jail Warden Dr. Gil Macato was not present when the PDEA conducted the raid, but the governor surmised that he was aware of the operation.
CPDRC is not under the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology but directly managed by the provincial government.
Dr. Macato, in an interview with Cebu Daily News, admitted that there are still contraband inside the facility. However, this has drastically decreased with the measures that they have undertaken.
“There are still contraband inside but since we have instituted measures, such as only one entry–one exit point and the delineation of jail guards from the inmates, the situation has improved considerably,” Macato said.
Jail guards do not freely go around the facility, but rather, are restricted to the areas where they are assigned. The assignments are also on rotation basis to lessen familiarity with the inmates, he said.
The acting jail warden also welcomed the raid done by the PDEA, saying this will really reflect the true situation inside the jail.
But he also added that they periodically conduct surprise searches.
Macato said there are many jail guards who have been there for many years who are in cahoots with the inmates; that is why he implemented the delineation of guards from inmates.
Asked if contraband inside the jail could be totally eliminated, Macato said yes but not immediately.
“We are dealing here with criminals and jail guards nga tang-an na kaayo (know the ins and outs),” he said.
The governor said he requested the assistance of the PDEA last month and asked Civil Security Unit (CSU) Chief Roberto Legaspi to coordinate with the police and PDEA as well as to inform Macato about conducting a greyhound operation.
Davide said he still has to talk to Macato about the results of the raid and evaluate the situation.
Last month, the CPDRC installed two signal jammers inside the facility after reports that a foreigner inmate was able to communicate with colleagues from his home country through phone calls.
Legaspi said the two signal jammers installed at the CPDRC were not enough to disrupt communication signals at the facility.
“There are still signals in some parts of the CPDRC. We’re looking at purchasing more signal jammers. We’re doing it in phases. Eventually, it will cover the whole CPDRC,” he said in a radio interview yesterday.
“Why is contraband still there despite the measures taken?” Davide asked.
“We got him (Macato) precisely as warden because it would be difficult if I would personally run the jail myself. We need somebody to run the facility so we got him. We will see what other measures need to be done because the results of the operation would show that there are still drugs and cell phones. Maybe we’re looking at relieving some guards whom we believe are in cahoots with some of the inmates, maybe kanang mga inmates nga badlongon kaayo, ato nang tan-awon. That’s why we need to discuss this with the warden and the jail guards there,” Davide said.
PDEA-7 director Yogi Filemon Ruiz said Governor Davide requested PDEA-7 to conduct a surprise raid inside the CPDRC to find out if illegal operations continued inside the jail.
He said PDEA-7 immediately hatched a “Greyhound Operation” inside the CPDRC with the help of the police and army personnel.
“Governor Davide was very much concerned with the illegal operations inside the jail. That was why he really insisted for us to conduct a surprise inspection,” Ruiz said.
Based on his observation, Ruiz said the security being implemented at the CPDRC is “very lax.”
“Kinahanglan g’yud unta og kamay na bakal ang ingon niana nga facility (A facility like the CPDRC needs an iron fist),” he said, alluding to the officials supervising the provincial jail.
Of the cellular phones seized, three were found inside the detention cell where suspected drug lord Alvaro “Barok” Alvaro, one of the top drug personalities in Cebu, has been staying.
A pack of shabu was also recovered inside the same detention cell where at least 10 inmates are also confined. PDEA-7 is conducting an investigation to find out who owns the prohibited substance.
Ruiz said at least five inmates from whom the packs of shabu were found are facing charges for violating Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
The surprise inspection was conducted barely three weeks after two signal jammers were installed at the CPDRC to ensure that inmates would no longer be able to communicate outside, and six months after the facility was raided by the police.
Ruiz said he will submit a post-operation report to Governor Davide for the latter to decide what appropriate actions to take.
“It will be up to Governor Davide to perhaps file charges against the inmates who were in possession of cell phones, or the jailers,” he said.
All the money confiscated, which is believed to be proceeds of the illegal drug trade inside the CPDRC, he said, shall also be turned over to the governor.
One passbook recovered from an inmate associated with Barok showed a deposit of P300,000 and a withdrawal of P500,000 — all in the same day.
Ruiz said the cellular phones they seized will undergo forensic examination to trace the conversations and other communications made by the inmates and to trace their connections.
“This will help in our investigation (pertaining to the illegal drug operations in Cebu). The surprise raid certainly paralyzed the command and control scheme of inmates who continue to call the shot for their illegal business,” he said.
The CPDRC, home of the world-renowned dancing inmates, was also raided along with the Cebu City Jail in a police operation last August 2016.
Drug paraphernalia were seized at the CPDRC, but not a single pack of shabu was seen during that operation.
The CPDRC, which has a capacity of 1,500, currently has about 2,795 inmates.