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The Forgotten

April 25, 2019


(Part 2)

Life inside notorious PH detention center where inmates ‘disappear’ without charges

(This is the second part of a three-part series on the immigration jail that is the Philippine version of the gulag, written by Raymond Smith, a British book publisher and webmaster, who was detained there for five weeks.)

THEY come from all corners of the globe, but many in Manila’s Bicutan detention center are trapped — neither charged with a crime nor represented (by lawyers).

The Bureau of Immigration’s detention center in Bicutan is a disgraceful hellhole where many foreign nationals are detained to be processed for deportation.

The facility apparently once served as an extermination center for opponents of the Ferdinand Marcos regime, but now it has become the abode of “The Forgotten.”

Inmates are packed into tiny rooms; there is no privacy, nowhere to exercise and nowhere to escape the oppressive heat and humidity and the stench of fetid close-quarter living.

Never formally charged with a crime, some of the 230 or so foreigners held there disappear into an opaque legal whirlpool and remain locked up for years or even decades. These inmates are known as The Forgotten.

You see people who have been there for 7, 11, or 14 years. When you talk to them, you discover they have never faced a criminal charge.

The officials basically use these people as a warning to you. They tell you: “You see? This is what happens when you don’t pay to be released. You will be here for the rest of your life and you will be forgotten.” It is psychological and mental torture of the worst kind. Those who have no friends to visit, no money and therefore no prospects of ever getting out eventually lose the will to live, the thought of death being preferable to the seemingly endless torture they will have to endure by staying alive.

The heat there is very oppressive. There is no air-conditioning, and in the heat of the day temperatures can reach or exceed 40 degrees Celsius on the top bunkhouse floor, under a tin roof that leaks when it rains.

Every inmate is apparently allowed one fan if they know someone from the outside and can persuade them to bring one in for them, but when it gets so hot, that fan just blows hot air. In my particular case, a friend on the outside did send an electric fan for me but was not allowed to give it to me at first because I needed to apply for permission from the warden. Later I was refused it and denied any visitors at all from that time onward because my ex-wife Jinky complained to the warden out of spite. A week or two later Jinky came there to see me, and I took great pleasure in refusing to allow her to see me!

Often there are brownouts. Most mornings inmates wake up in a sweaty bed because it’s too warm, even at night, for most Westerners. Taking a nap during the day guarantees a sweat-soaked bed most of the year. Then there are others less fortunate, like myself while I was there, who never even have a bed to nap or sleep on. Instead they get the opportunity to sleep on a concrete floor crawling with rats after midnight, when everyone else has gone to bed.

Every day is pretty similar. You can lie on your bunk if you have one, or the floor if there is any room, which most of the time there is not, for 24 hours per day if you like … There isn’t much intrusion or interaction from the guards or anyone outside, unless you’re lucky enough to have friends or family that want to visit you, or a lawyer, if you can afford one.

Many of The Forgotten are completely stuck within the system and seem to be useful only to the Bureau of Immigration, so that they can keep their quota up and receive a generous budget from the government.

Even if an inmate does have a lawyer, and that lawyer is one of the very few like Atty. Bulou (sic) who is proactive about advancing a case, they have to deal with a corrupt, constipated and mostly inept legal system that is almost impossible to navigate within any sort of reasonable time frame.

A few of the inmates just pace around all day like caged animals in this human menagerie — like (in the TV series) “The Walking Dead” — not knowing when or if they will ever get out of there.

For The Forgotten, and others there struggling to make sure their cases are remembered, an uncomfortably long, hot summer in Bicutan drags on and on.

Recently two PNP officers assigned to the place were arrested. They were outed (sic) by the disgruntled wife of a Korean detainee but this has most definitely not pleased the main Korean players in there because of what else this particular Korean and his wife, and the “pay to stays” may be up to.

Prostitutes (including underage girls) are being brought in to “service” the Korean community, and it is this particular Korean and his wife that have been doing the pimping recently because the wife has a nice line in underage girls. This particular Korean is not a major player (doesn’t have the money) but his handler, called Kevin, is.

Kevin, real name Park Young Ju, DoB Aug. 2, 1983, was committed May 17, 2017 and should have been deported on the second planeload of Koreans early 2018. One planeload of 40 to 50 Koreans were pulled out by the Korean government on a special chartered flight in late 2017 (well documented) and another group was to follow but it never happened because the remaining Koreans coughed up millions (up to P10 million per head) to stay. Kevin was one of these so he and a few more of the long-term “pay to stays” are feeling very uncomfortable with the current exposure — so you might like to look at the background of this particular Korean’s wife, Mr. Tulfo.

It’s very good news that low-life warden Niño Oliver Dato has now been sacked by Morente thanks to your and General Calima’s efforts, Mr. Tulfo. But now apparently there is a notice from the new warden stating: No cigarettes, no cellphones, no cooking will be allowed.

How will inmates book their flights or communicate with their family, friends, lawyers and consulate/embassy? These people are not convicted criminals. BI is violating the Constitution and the human rights covenant for sure.

I fear there will be a riot in that place before long unless something is done about this very quickly. Nearly everyone in there smokes and many have great difficulty getting through a day without cigarettes and their cellphones as these are really all they have to keep them sane. Nicotine and 4G are extremely addictive as you know.

As for no cooking, if the BI would provide the detainees with properly cooked, appetizing and nutritional food which includes vegetables and not just bland chicken and rice with gravy the whole time, then they would not need to cook food for themselves. They should also be provided with proper filtered drinking water, without having to pay money for it of course.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net


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