Philippines War Against Crime: An Inside Story From One Of The World's Most Crowded Jail

Aayush Mahat

Nail-biting photos have emerged recently in media, revealing the inside life from one of the world's most crowded jail in the Philippines. The facility, Quezon City jail, in Manila, is home to 3,800 prisoners, whose cases are pending and those undergoing trials.

As the number of prisoners is nearly five times more than it was designed for, those living inside undergo the constant battle for space, water, and food. Quezon City prison was built for 800 prisoners, six decades ago.

Initiated by President of the Philippines, Rodrigo "The Punisher" Duterte, in an attempt to eradicate drug trafficking, over 420 suspects have already become the victims of police execution.


President Duterte has launched an aggressive campaign to execute all drug dealers, criminals, and even addicts. Up to now, thousands of drug offenders have handed into the authorities to avoid being killed. Mr. Duterte took office on 30 June.

But the government has not taken any serious measure in improving the miserable condition inside jails.

Due to overcrowding, the prisoners have to sleep on any damp space they find, which reportedly causes some inmates to have a stroke.

They have been forced to take a nap on a concrete floor, staircases, and, underneath beds. While some are lucky enough to get some space, others have to take turns on the cracked cement floor of an open-air basketball court and sleep sitting for a while until their turns come.


Dr. Narag, one of the former inmates who served for seven years in Quezon City prison, said that food rations are very small, and often contain rusty nails and cockroaches, leading the men to go hungry or steal other food to sustain.

He further added that more than two to five inmates die every month in Quezon City prison.

Many prisoners become prone to contagious diseases because of poor sanitation and ventilation systems inside the jail. Even the supply of drinking water is very limited and below par as per the requirements.


They suffer from diseases like diarrhea, skin infections, tuberculosis, etc. with none or minimal health care. Medical services are few and far between. Their health conditions are deteriorating because of this unhygienic condition.

"Many go crazy," Mario Dimaculangan, the jail's longest serving inmate, according to The Independent.

"They cannot think straight. It's so crowded. Just the slightest of movements and you bump into something or someone."


"These conditions exist in municipal and city jails across the country, as well as state penitentiaries," Dr. Simbulan told The Independent.

Even though the Philippines hold a place in United Nations Conventions Against Torture, which bans the cruel treatment inside jails, such inhuman treatment of prisoners, prevail even today in many detention centers.

Overcrowding is a serious issue in this part of the jail while general cleanliness and a lack of the facilities make life even worse.


One of the major causes of overcrowded jails in the Philippines is because of the shortage of judges and prosecutors to hear cases. Only about two to three hearings are done within a year, which pushes the trial further some years and takes decades to solve.

According to the figure, the Philippines has the highest number of pretrial detainees among Southeast Asian countries and second highest in all of Asia, with over 90 percent of captives awaiting or undergoing trial.

Even the slightest of crimes like disputes and quarrels, which could be settled at the lower levels, are taken to the main court, intensifying the pressure onto the system further.


One Quezon City inmate's stated that he had been in prison for 15 years after being accused of murdering a politician's relative, is hearing an average of one trial every year.

Later, if some of the detainees are found innocent of the accused, they find it very difficult to sustain their life outside bars. Even to live and work outside, one should require clearance from the police department and National Bureau of Investigation. Some become depressed and carry boredom throughout their life because of the enormous weight of hatefulness and shame they carry from jail.

[Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images]