Eyes on Bilibid caterer as diarrhea downs 974 inmates
The current caterer of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) has been excluded from the ongoing bidding for a new food supplier due to various contract violations, Bureau of Corrections director general Benjamin delos Santos said following a diarrhea outbreak in the national penitentiary over the weekend.
Mang Kiko Catering Services Inc. has been providing food for NBP inmates since 2008, according to Delos Santos, but “we’re in the process of investigating them for possible blacklisting.”
Among its violations, Delos Santos said, was replacing the menu without prior approval from the NBP food committee.
A total of 974 NBP inmates came down with diarrhea starting Friday morning, with 154 requiring hospitalization due to dehydration, the official said. The inmates blamed the paksiw na bangus (milkfish stewed in vinegar) that they had for dinner on Thursday.
Initial findings of the NBP Hospital showed E. coli and amoeba in the stool samples of affected inmates, he added.
On Monday, the Department of Health sent a team to check the patients’ stool samples and test the food and water sources.
“We’re still checking if it’s inherently in the food or if it was because of the handling,” Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said. “We also looked into the preparation area at Bilibid and there are some measures we can implement to mitigate and stop this from happening in the future.”
The local sanitation office of Muntinlupa City also conducted a test of the kitchen facilities of the caterer.
“Those are independent and parallel investigations. As soon as those are finalized, only then can I make a conclusive statement as to what really caused (the diarrhea outbreak),” Delos Santos said.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Monday visited the NBP and donated 2,000 bottles of Gatorade and 4,000 pieces of bananas (saba) for the affected inmates.
Asked about Aguirre’s statement raising the possibility that the food poisoning was deliberate, Delos Santos said anything was possible “but that’s an extreme possibility.”
He noted that the majority of the affected inmates were from the maximum security compound. Only four were from medium security, four from the reception and diagnostic center, and one from minimum security.
The NBP, which currently holds more than 24,000 inmates, with 16,000 in the maximum security compound, allots a daily food budget of P60 per inmate. —WITH A REPORT BY TINA G. SANTOS
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.