MANILA, Philippines—There’s no excuse not to help, according to convicts at the New Bilibid Prison, so they have decided to pass the hat around and skip one meal a day to raise money for people displaced by the widespread flooding induced by recent heavy monsoon rains.
NBP superintendent Richard W. Schwarzkopf Jr. confirmed in a telephone interview Friday that the inmates have been skipping one meal a day and donating the money saved to the flood victims.
“When the heavy rains started… the Council of Elders met and passed a resolution that they required inmates to skip one meal to give to evacuees. The council members have also collected among themselves around P48,000 in cash donations, used clothes and bags of noodles and sardines,” he said.
The Council of Elders serves as the leaders of the maximum security compound’s 12 gangs. It is recognized by the BuCor, said Schwarzkopf.
The donations are turned over to BuCor, which has, for the week, handed them over to the ABS-CBN Foundation and two evacuation centers in Muntinlupa.
“In one evacuation center, we gave bread, boiled sweet potatoes and boiled bananas. The inmates themselves cooked them and packed them in banana leaves, not plastic,” Schwarzkopf said, pride ringing in his voice. Muntinlupa has imposed a ban on plastics.
Schwarzkopf pointed out it was the inmates themselves who volunteered to do the acts of charity.
“It’s their way of showing people outside that even behind bars, they still think of their countrymen who are in need,” Schwarzkopf said.
And it’s not a one-time deal.
“The inmates do that every time there’s a calamity,” said Fr. Eli Rowdy Lundo, executive director of the Philippine Jesuit Prison Services located at NBP reservation. ” During Typhoon Sendong, there were vans full of clothes and relief goods from them.”
Lundo said the inmates, who number around 10,000, have been gathering from the “brigadas” or dormitories whatever little they can donate.
“They give extra clothing, canned goods like sardines, and also prayers. That’s all they have, and they still give it. It’s touching and inspiring,” Lundo said in a telephone interview.
He estimated the food budget per prisoner to be around P50 per day. “Some would probably just go hungry. They have limited resources,” he noted.
Though NBP was spared from the flooding, prisoners learned about the disaster outside their walls through television in common areas, news from jail guards and visitors, and during Lundo’s Masses where he calls for prayers for the victims, the priest said.
“It shows they are ready to change, and there is reformation under BuCor,” Schwarzkopf said.
“They really want to help. Some do it as a way to help their families. It’s a manifestation of change in them,” Lundo said.