Operational Capability of the Response Team in Addressing Jail Disturbances in the Philippines

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Chapter 1
THE PROBLEM AND ITS BACKGROUND

Introduction
The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) plays an important role on the field of Philippine Criminal Justice System, specifically, at establishing peace and order inside the jail. The alarming increase of jail population poses a high degree of threats and unwarranted jail incidents. The most probable emergency crisis situation that happens in one jail would involve inmate to inmate and personnel to inmate conflicts. Incidents of riots, noise barrage, and attempts to escape are most likely to happen, in some instances, hostage-takings were perpetrated by an inmate or group of inmates as a desperate act, probably, because of psychological problems, as a result of riot or uprising, or who is/are trying to escape. Potentials of these internal threats were sought as concern for regular review, up-dating and rehearsal of an emergency action plans. A related case of emergency crisis situation at a BJMP jail happened in Metro Manila District Jail, Camp Vicente Lim, Bicutan, Taguig City, which was started on March 14, 2005 after a member of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) detainees managed to grabbed one of the jail officer’s firearm and shot him dead and open fire at other sentinel in the area to perpetrate their plan to escape. The incident resulted to five casualties, of which, three jail officers and two ASG detainees were killed. Thus, on March 15, 2005, a standoff with other ASG detainees who participated in the foiled escape plan, ended with casualties of one police officer and twenty-two members of ASG detainees in a short exchange of fire after considering all peaceful means by the Incident Management Team led by no less than Secretary Angelo Reyes of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, where they were criticized for "being indecisive and slow" in finishing off the crisis. Sec. Reyes averred that, the ASG detainees refused to yield their firearms which they grabbed from the guards and turned down the negotiator’s calls and assurances for their safety, including the plea of their Muslim leaders. Negotiations through the jail’s intercom device had to be extended seven times because the ASG detainees refused to surrender their firearms. The assault could have done earlier but the Incident Management Team decided to try diplomatic means first. The operation had been carried out in an "exemplary" manner but expressed "regret" at the casualty count. This delivers a strong message that anybody who tries to do something like this in the future will be dealt with in an appropriate fashion. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said in a radio speech that "terrorism will never win in the Philippines". She stressed that a government team must be capable of resolving the crisis. Further, she lamented that there were fatalities which could have been avoided if the assault team is prepared to respond to the situation. At present, the absence of clear policies contributes a nationwide dilemma on the part of jail personnel to confront problems, disturbances, untoward incidents and to compel movement of inmates. Thus, jail personnel who reacted to such volatile situation often faced with administrative and or criminal charges for unnecessary or excessive use of force. Dealing with an overly populated jail, disproportioned personnel to inmate ratio, insufficient security equipment and facilities, chronic gang disputes and unsatisfied human needs have brought about the RBJMP 3 jails to experience some jail incidents. In a move to effectively address this emerging concern, the BJMP organized a Special Tactics and Response (STAR) Team last March 2000 as its tool in responding to jail incidents. From its pool of manpower resources, members are chosen based on their merit and fitness and they are required to undergo rigid training purposely to make them effective in their functions. With more than two (2) years in...
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