Nine inmates were killed and seven wounded in a predawn clash on Friday between rival gangs inside New Bilibid Prison (NBP), authorities said.
Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag said seven of the fatalities were members of the Sigue Sigue Sputnik gang and the two others were from its rival, the Sigue Sigue Commando.
In an interview with Inquirer, Chaclag said the clash at the east quadrant of the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa City started around 1 a.m. and was “pacified” after about three hours.
He said they were still investigating what caused the riot. He could not release the names of the victims as their families have not yet been informed, he said.
“There were so many versions of how it started. We are still validating them and would release an official statement,” Chaclag said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he had asked BuCor Director General Gerald Bantag to investigate the riot and submit a report as soon as possible.
“I’m ready to take drastic actions regarding NBP in view of these violent incidents but I will reserve them till I see DG Bantag’s report before the end of the day,” Guevarra told reporters in a Viber message.
NBP is the second-most congested of the seven BuCor prisons. With 28,753 inmates for a facility built for 6,435 prisoners, it had an occupancy rate of 447 percent as of August 2020.
One of the wounded inmates told BuCor SWAT operatives that he and some members of the Commando gang were “held hostage” inside an area at the maximum security compound. The inmate said he was able to survive by pretending to be dead.
According to a report of the Muntinlupa police, the violence occurred at Quadrant 4 Buildings 9, 2 and 5 of the East Maximum Security Compound around 1:07 am.
Police quoted witnesses in Building 9 and members of the Commando group as saying that they were sleeping outside their dormitories when they were awakened by a commotion.
Stones, they said, were being thrown everywhere hitting some of the inmates who were unaware that there was a riot.
Warring gang members, the report said, “tried to hit each other with whatever object that could be held on.”
It added that some of the inmates claimed that members of the rival gang were forcing their way into their bailiwick and they just fought back.
Around 3 a.m., the wounded and dead were taken to the NBP hospital.
The police said eight of the dead suffered multiple “mortal” wounds in the body, which were not specified.
Police said there were several versions of how the riot erupted, including a stabbing incident at Dorm 20-2 and the bullying of a gay inmate.
The police said personnel from the Base Security Command and BuCor-SWAT were able to immediately respond to the riot.
In 2016, a riot occurred at the NBP that killed a convicted Chinese drug dealer, Tony Co, one of the so-called Bilibid 19 that allegedly operated the illegal drug trade inside NBP.
The late Jaybee Sebastian—a convicted drug lord who was leader of the Commando gang—was wounded in that riot along with several others high profile prisoners.
Sebastian died several months ago of COVID-19.
He had testified against detained Sen. Leila de Lima during the House hearing on the drug trade at NBP and was her co-accused in her drug case in the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court.
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