18 months after the raid, Malaybalay city jail named RP' best

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/07 July) — The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology has chosen the Malaybalay City Jail as the Philippines’ best for 2010, a citation that came 18 months after suspected members of the New People’s Army raided it and carted away arms, ammunition, and radio sets.

J/Supt. Guy Jason Reyes, Malaybalay jail warden, told MindaNews it is the first time a jail in Northern Mindanao won the award.

He said it was given to Malaybalay along with his fourth “Best Jail Warden” award.

His previous award came when he was still based in Ozamis City prior to reassignment to Bukidnon in February 2009.

He said the award is given to a jail that has provided quality services to its personnel and inmates, considered a major deterrent to jail breaks or escapes.

Rosendo Dial, BJMP chief, handed both plaques to Reyes on July 1 in Manila in time for the 19th foundation anniversary of BJMP.

Dial cited “outstanding and distinguished achievements that made it the bureau’s top choice.”

Reyes said he has employed five cardinal rules in the 260-inmate city jail including normal treatment of inmates, clean jail facility, landscaping and beautification, zero escape and special programs and services for the detainees.

He also cited that aside from zero escape, they were also able to achieve physical improvements and cooperation among the inmates.

He said they are maintaining the jail like a retreat house or restaurant and urged the public to drop by in Barangay Patpat to see for themselves.

He said getting the inmates’ cooperation means providing better services and opportunities for them to earn and learn.

Reyes said he made sure they could produce their own food such as root crops, fish like hito (catfish), and livestock such as goats and turkeys. Portions of the jail compound are being utilized as gardens, fishponds and grazing areas for this purpose.

He said they also initiated handicrafts like flower vases made of recycled paper, bracelets and other native accessories, and improvised lampshades.

He said he is presently arranging with a local exporter of industrial boots to subcontract a portion of their assembly line to the inmates.

Aside from livelihood projects, Reyes said he has also initiated an internal Alternative Learning System with the Department of Education.

“I want the illiterate inmates to learn so when they leave the jail they will be better individuals,” Reyes said.

He said he also welcomed missions and outreach programs of religious groups, which had been disallowed prior to his assumption.

He said the groups helped provide psychosocial, spiritual, and even medical and other support services to the inmates.

Reyes said the city jail today is very open to visitors and the general public.

He also attributed the changes to the support of the city government which poured in support after seeing his initiatives.

But he admitted that before he came in the public feared the city jail especially after the attack on January 21, 2009, when some 50 armed men believed to be NPA rebels attacked it and grabbed some firearms.

The attack also resulted in the wounding of a construction worker and a policeman who tried to put up some resistance.

The Malaybalay City Police Office said the attackers did not free any prisoner but only snatched the firearms and communication equipment. Also taken were six M16 magazines full of ammunition.

Initial police accounts said the armed men drove in two multicabs and a van. Five persons, including three women, rode in one of the multicabs and reportedly posed as jail visitors.

Police reports obtained by MindaNews the day after said the attack took about 30 minutes.

When police and Army troopers drove to the jail, the attackers withdrew in two groups — one towards the southeast and the other towards the eastern part of the hinterlands behind the jail. Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)