BuCor probes Leyte prison fire
The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) has initiated its own investigation into the nearly three-hour blaze that killed 10 inmates and destroyed the maximum security facility at the biggest penal colony in Eastern Visayas on Thursday.
This as authorities put top priority on both securing and providing the basic needs of some 1,000 inmates who were held at the now destroyed building, among the total 3,000 imprisoned in the crowded Leyte Regional Prison in the town of Abuyog, south of Tacloban City.
“Yes, BuCor is also investigating,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said yesterday, when asked if the agency was undertaking separate investigation from the Bureau of Fire Protection.
“But, of course, the priority now is how to secure and attend to the needs– food, clothing, medicine, shelter–of the approximately 1,000 affected inmates and, of course, to bury the dead inmates,” she said.
De Lima said police and military forces have been deployed to beef up security at the penal colony, a 10-hectare facility built 42 years ago. The regional prison had survived Supertyphoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) when the strongest typhoon to hit land decimated much of Eastern Visayas in 2013.
“Given the number of inmates, security of course is a major concern. Per (BuCor Director General) Rainier Cruz, AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police) forces have augmented BuCor’s custodial personnel in that facility,” the justice chief told the Inquirer when reached by text message yesterday.
For a still unknown cause, fire hit the nine-cell maximum security building at the regional prison at 3:45 p.m. on Thursday.
The building housed 1,266 inmates who were padlocked, unlike prisoners of lighter offenses in other buildings who were given time out of their cells for farming and other activities within the compound, BuCor spokesperson Msgr. Roberto Olaguer earlier said.
Local fire authorities are looking at faulty electrical wiring as among the possible causes of the fire. Officials earlier said the blaze could have been aggravated by the piles of wood at the building, which the inmates used for making income-generating crafts.
Among those who died in the blaze were inmates held at a section in the building for prisoners with mental health problems. Two elderly inmates were also killed.
Thursday’s deadly fire was the second to hit the facility in two years: a blaze traced to faulty electrical wiring killed one inmate in 2013. CDG