MANILA (AFP) – An eight-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in a toilet at a notorious Philippine prison, officials said Saturday, fuelling a national uproar over revelations that its inmates were “living like kings” with stripper bars and jacuzzis.
The girl, who was visiting her inmate father at Bilibid prison in suburban Manila on New Year’s Day, was found sprawled on the bathroom floor, naked from the waist down and with a rope tied around her neck, officials said. Initial medical tests did not indicate that she had been raped.
“The incident involving the eight-year-old is nothing short of deplorable,” presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte told AFP.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said an inmate had confessed to attacking the girl and would face additional criminal charges.
“He rendered her unconscious, strangled with the intention of raping her,” de Lima told local broadcaster ABS-CBN.
The assault came three weeks after a police raid of the prison found stashes of drugs, cash and guns – as well as sex dolls, a stripper bar and a jacuzzi – spread across an astonishing network of air-conditioned “villas” built for powerful crime lords.
One inmate, bank robbery gang leader Herbert Colanggo, had a recording studio in his villa, where he made a full album of love ballads.
Colanggo’s YouTube posts also revealed that he staged elaborate shows inside the prison gymnasium where he was cheered by crowds waving pink pom-poms.
“We are trembling with anger. We are sick and tired of this system,” Dante Jimenez, chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, told AFP.
Jimenez called on President Benigno Aquino to overhaul the entire prison system and transfer Bilibid to an island, similar to the former maximum-security prison on Alcatraz in the United States.
“They should be surrounded by sharks and crocodiles,” he said.
Bilibid, the nation’s biggest prison, is infamous for overcrowding and brutal conditions – it was built to accommodate 8,900 inmates but currently houses more than 23,000.
Philippine jails have long had a reputation for corruption, but the scale of privileges enjoyed by kingpins at Bilibid shocked the nation.
The government is “taking measures to stop any and all possible criminal acts inside the penitentiary”, Valte said.