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Prison CP - June 2001

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Philippine Daily Inquirer, Manila, 26 June 2001

159 inmates stage riot over gambling debts

By Nestor Burgos Jr. and Ma. Diosa Labiste
Inquirer News Service


ILOILO CITY -- A four-year-old boy walked free yesterday morning after being trapped for 16 hours inside the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center (IRC) where 159 prisoners staged a riot about 6 p.m. Monday.

Mark Somcio, son of inmate Marlon Somcio, was released about 10 a.m. after politicians, policemen and prison officials donated P6,300 in exchange for the boy's freedom.


The vice governor then gave the P6,300 to Joel Prion, the mayores (cell leader) of the group of inmates that started the riot, to pay part of the P20,000, which five inmates, including the boy's father, Marlon, owed their cellmates during gambling.

Supt. Efren Quintos, acting IRC warden, said the inmates, who staged the riot, were reportedly angered by the transfer of these five indebted inmates from the Annex Building to the Main Building.



The inmates raised three issues during the negotiations. These were the lifting of strip-search of women visitors in the jail, a stop to the wearing of the compulsory tangerine prisoners' uniform during court hearings, and better food rations.


Sonza and Tabaldo said there appeared to be no compelling reason for the inmates to stage a riot Monday night because the gambling incident was a matter the inmates settled among themselves.


Jail officers said gambling proliferates inside the prison cells to kill the inmates' boredom.

Prisoners would bet on almost anything from basketball games to spider fights.

Inmates would often run into debts because they bet even when they are broke. Their families are often burdened with paying the loans.

But they also have their own form of penalty for inmates who failed to settle their debts.

Quintos said the prisoners were actually practicing "takal," a form of punishment among prisoners for unpaid debts or violation of rules imposed by their prison mayores (cell leaders).

An offender is beaten on the buttocks with a wooden paddle similar to the ones used in fraternity initiation rites. One hit of the paddle is equivalent to every peso, which the offender owes.

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