One of the first activities conducted by the new director-general of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) upon assumption of office is the destruction of the kubols in the Maximum Security Compound.
The makeshift cubicles or shanties were bulldozed and inmates who live in them were ordered to go back to their cells.
Accordingly, these kubols had been utilized to hide drugs, cellphones and other contrabands, which had compromised the security of the prison compound. These kubols are said to have been utilized by drug dealers as a hiding place on where to conduct their dealing, and with the aid of cellphones, even outside of the compound. It was alleged that the Bilibid maintained its premiere role as “drug stock market exchange” due to the privacy and security accorded by the kubols.
These are legitimate security concerns.
For Business, Lifestyle
Indeed, kubols in the Maximum Security Compound had been abused by some inmates to hide their sprawling businesses and maintain pre-prison lifestyles.
In its heyday in 2014, I have witnessed kubols equipped with high technology amenities, hotel-type services, and other luxurious comforts.
The bigger issue however is: why are kubols a common fixture of jails and prisons in the country? Will destruction of the kubols fix the problems of drug dealing and trade in the Bilibid? Kubols are simple coping mechanisms to the lack of space and facilities in the prison and jail settings.
In a cell designed for 20 inmates (but actually accommodates 100 inmates), inmates need to find ways to maximize space. Kubols or tarimas (beds) are informally allowed by the custodial officers for humanitarian considerations. However, these are against the formal rules, thus, kubols can be removed anytime.
The informal nature of the kubols makes it prone to corruption as some personnel would willingly grant the entry of kubol materials on the pre-text of “hu-money-tarian” considerations.
Inmates can now own, rent, and sell the kubols, leading to the privatization and commercialization of space in the cells. This can lead to the abuses on the use of the kubols, such as, drug dealing and drug trade.
In the short run, destruction of the kubols will disrupt the dynamics of drug dealing in the Bilibid.
Drug dealers will have a more difficult time to find a venue to stock, sell, and deal drugs. It will also be more difficult for them to hide their use of cellular phones and other private activities.
By destroying the kubols, however, it will remove the coping mechanisms of the inmates to address overcrowding and lack of sleeping areas. Ordinary inmates who are not involved in the drug businesses will be the ones tremendously affected.
Human Rights Violations
Sickly and elderly inmates will be carrying the brunt of this policy as they will have no place to sleep and rest. As such, while destruction of the kubols is security imperative, and credit the new Bucor Chief for taking direct actions, new facilities and space must be constructed as well.
The kubols are simply a consequence of a more structural and enduring problem. Removing the kubols further worsens the conditions of ordinary, law-abiding inmates, which is tantamount to human rights violations.
Given the fact that no new facilities and space will be constructed soon, the new BuCor chief can introduce a merit-based construction of the kubols: inmates with good behaviors should be given priority in the construction and maintenance of the kubols.
Kubols must be a privilege given to law-abiding and reform-minded inmates.
Prof. Raymund Narag, a native of Cagayan province, is an assistant professor at Southern Illinois University and former Fulbright Fellow at Michigan State University. He studied Criminal Justice at the Michigan State University and a graduate of the University of the Philippines.(Prof.Raymund Narag)