ILOILO – “Last resort.” This was how Superintendent Gilbert Peremne, assistant regional director for administration of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), described his office’s decision to install cellphone signal jammers at the Iloilo District Jail (IDJ) in Barangay Nanga, Pototan town.
BJMP tried everything to stop the smuggling of contrabands such as illegal drugs and mobile phones into the prison facility, he said, such as inspecting jail visitors and the things they bring inside.
Six signal jammers were installed at the IDJ in June to prevent inmates with mobile phones from making outside transactions such as trafficking illegal drugs.
Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) member Matt Palabrica, however, slammed the move as a cover-up to the incompetence of jail guards to secure the prison facility.
Peremne clarified that the BJMP national headquarters is in fact requiring all jails with over 1,000 inmate-population to have phone signal jammers.
The IDJ, designed to accommodate some 2,000 inmates, currently has a population of 1,529, said Peremne.
This Nov. 19 the SP committees on Public Order and Security, Transportation and Communication and Public Utilities will be conducting an ocular inspection at the IDJ. Representatives from the National Telecommunications Commission Region 6 would be joining the inspection, too. The focus would be the range or coverage of the signal jammers.
Last week, Palabrica said the signal jammers were inconveniencing Barangay Nanga residents living nearby.
“Residents within the 300-meter radius of the facility cannot send text messages or make phone calls or use the internet adequately. The main center of the barangay which is 100 meters away is severely affected, too. Official communication to other government agencies, especially in emergency situations, cannot be conducted 24/7,” lamented Palabrica.
Peremne, however, insisted that the IDJ signal jamming devices have a radial coverage of 20 meters at the most.
According to SP member June Mondejar, chairperson of the Committee on Public Order and Security, the inspection should settle the matter.
“In the event the inspection would show that the coverage is over 20 meters, the SP could issue a resolution calling for it to be scaled down to only within the IDJ vicinity para indi maka-apekto sa mga residents sang Barangay Nanga,” said Mondejar.
For his part, Palabrica urged the local offices of concerned government agencies – National Telecommunications Commission, Philippine National Police, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, and BJMP – to draw up a plan to secure the IDJ but at the same time relieve Barangay Nanga residents of the inconvenience caused by the signal jammers.
“This matter has serious implications on the economic and social life of residents in this barangay. They cannot optimize their livelihood activities or stay in contact with families and relatives elsewhere. Life nowadays is so dependent on cellular communications,” Palabrica stressed.
Signal jammers are not the answer to the nagging issue of drug or contraband control and apprehension, added Palabrica.
“The answer lies in the integrity and competence of the leadership and personnel of the BJMP,” he said.
Mondejar, meanwhile, saw nothing wrong with the use of signal jammers at the IDJ. He said these devices in fact enhance the security measures at the prison facility./PN