Behind Bars South Cotabato Jail Philippines World’s Toughest Prisons Free Documentary

an unfathomable world a world we know exists but nobody wants to get to know the men incarcerated here are extremely another inmate attacked me he stabbed my eye no more corrupt no better for me behind bars is a struggle just to survive i don't hurt anybody else i just hurt myself and only the strongest will survive i keep on fighting to get out of here for them their lives are always in somebody else's hands pretty much caged animals they'll lock you up and throw away the key behind bars in the toughest prisons in the world [Music] the philippines a hot tropical country in southeast asia jammed with 100 million inhabitants a country in which six percent of the population is unemployed in which the gap between rich and poor could hardly be bigger the biggest problem drugs marijuana crack meth available all over the country but those who take drugs will sooner or later end up here at south cotabato jail they're drug dealers rapists and murderers i had to kill my nephew it was self-defense guilty or not guilty all the prisoners are awaiting a hearing behind bars often for decades [Music] i can't do anything but wait [Music] i miss my family so much a trial of patience between desperation heat and a power struggle between the guards and those who are actually in control of the jail all i can think about is getting out of here escaping surviving in cramped conditions without hope of release in one of the most overcrowded prisons in the world the south cotabato jail new prisoners arrive at south cotabato jail every day even though it's already massively overcrowded this is the first time juanier du magit has seen a jail from the inside it was in a supermarket with a woman the charge attempted murder of a cashier but the 35 year old filipino has still not been convicted technically south cotabato is a pre-trial detention center most of the prisoners here are awaiting a verdict the question is if a verdict will ever be rendered no he still until he will be trying from the court then we don't know how long some wait here for months others for years whether guilty or not guilty murderers or drug dealers on the inside it doesn't matter anymore all that matters on the inside is survival i'm really nervous i don't know what'll happen now it's my first time raniel finds out sooner than he'd like what kind of world awaits him inside the walls on the inside of one of the most overcrowded prisons in the world welcome to south cotabato jail a jail that is bursting at the seams the average temperature is a tropical 35 degrees celsius about 2 000 prisoners wait out their time in a space designed for a number only quarter that size they live like caged animals sweat heat no privacy at all desperation and rage all concentrated in a space that is much too small in his very first hour in jail ranil will find out who's in charge who occupies what place in the hierarchy and what awaits him here in the future and if he has enemies here they won't recognize him immediately we've all gone through it as a new prisoner ranil is at the bottom of the jail's hierarchy he has no rights his belongings do not remain in his possession for long the goal is to break the newbie he must start from nothing with nothing in his pocket he must possess nothing but insecurity and fear and no one protects him [Music] these are anil's last steps under the watch the guards once he enters the cell block responsibility for the newbie falls to one of his fellow prisoners the cell leader from now on he decides when ronnie eats when he gets to go outside and where he sleeps raniel's new home a 270 square foot cell inhabited by 69 inmates it's the sell for new arrivals regardless of whether they're drug dealers or murderers everyone starts here in one of the jail's fullest and hottest cells get up there you're new so you sleep up there go on the stuffiest place at the very top in the corner where the heat accumulates where the air consists of sweat and frustration here is terribly stressful i've never been anywhere like this before starting now ranil must stay in the cell for 15 days he can only go outside when the cell leader lets him and accompanies him ranil has no say in the matter only those who follow the rules survive in south cotabato jail the biggest problem the jail is utterly overcrowded in only two buildings designed for about 600 inmates 1 618 prisoners are doing time about 150 of them are in so-called punishment cells cells that are always locked for dangerous criminals repeat offenders or sick inmates the oldest are in a separate wing for seniors also in a separate wing apart from the men are 400 women essential for survival are the jails kitchen the prayer room and the visiting area which is open once a week the entire compound is patrolled by only five guards and their hands are tied 20 public servants against about 2 000 inmates an unfair fight rodrigo baludiro has been a jailer at south cotabato jail for 18 years it is his job to keep the peace but he must always keep three things in mind the danger to his men corruption and maintaining a distance between guards and prisoners i don't let the guards enter the compound their contact with the prisoners should be minimal some of the inmates could develop a personal relationship with them [Music] no matter what crime they've committed and that can lead to other problems that means one of the only jobs left is to monitor the outer walls the guards must rely above all on security cameras and on the hierarchy within the prison walls because the jail is ruled from within for balodio that's a mental strain change the situation in the jail [Music] his people go inside the walls only twice a day to do a head count it's 4 p.m about 2 000 prisoners all in one space and one guard to count them the guard seems rather like a minion of those who are actually in control here if ronnie breaks the law on the outside he ends up in jail inside he pays with his life the one with the power to decide is known as the president el presidente he is the boss in south cotabato jail we have rules here and you will follow them got it yes sir respect me and do what the marshals and i tell you then you'll be fine the hierarchy is clear on top the president and his helpers the so-called marshals armed with clubs at the bottom newbies like ronio otherwise the only way to power is money prisoners with money can buy what they need to survive cigarettes food from the jail's kiosk and above all fresh water those who can't afford it have to drink groundwater on the tropical philippines with an average temperature of 35 degrees celsius this is a dangerous proposition it's easy to catch diseases like tuberculosis and whoever gets sick gets locked away in total isolation due to fear of epidemics a fear that one man in the jail doesn't have glicerio de pedro in the jail he is known as el presidente i treat them well if they listen to me and follow the rules then i help them with their problems has been in south cotabato jail for 13 years in this time he has become the most powerful man in the jail the reason his wealthy family and wealth is both power and a status symbol i'm here for murdering my nephew we were having an argument over property and the whole family thought i was the problem they wanted me to die real soon so that they could get the land so i saved my own life i had to kill my nephew it was self-defense no verdict has yet been returned and the president is waiting but he is waiting with privileges that no one else has he uses his status to operate a lucrative barter operation he gives prisoners money and in return they give him televisions cell phones a custom built bed things that are technically prohibited no one messes with the president and his marshals even the guards leave the most important job to the marshals locking down the cells it's 5 pm and about 2 000 prisoners have to be put back behind bars those who don't obey feel the whack of the club or the power of the president the system that seems to work based on respect and fear i'm the overall checker and do the prep work for the gods the prisoners trust and respect me so do the gods the guards rely on the hierarchy that rules the jail there'd be no way to keep the mass of prisoners under control otherwise one level below the marshals in the hierarchy are the cell leaders they count the prisoners again no one can go missing the newbie is starting to understand how the prison works [Music] the guards must do only one small job lock the cell doors and leave the jail the prisoners spend the next 12 hours behind bars the struggle for survival begins the struggle for space for air to breathe there is no access to food or water the prisoners must persevere in one of the most overcrowded jails in the world a prison built for 600 inmates at the moment three times that number are behind bars here about 70 people occupying about 100 square meters the average temperatures of tropical humid 35 degrees centigrade hardly anyone can sleep they just have to wait it out to distract themselves to get through another night to survive for the newbie in extreme situation it's raniel's first night behind bars it's unbelievably hot i can't breathe i feel claustrophobic i don't know how i'll make it the 35 year old has no choice he must persevere if only for his four children and his wife we're waiting for him on the outside night falls darkness settles over the jail all the prisoners are behind bars except for one group of people that is allowed to move around at night the privileged few el presidente and his entourage in their eyes this class distinction is totally normal everyone is treated equally here everyone but me that is i have a special status but all others are under my supervision equality clearly everyone defines it differently one thing is certain those who get on the president's good side escape the overcrowding worked hard to earn the trust of the gods [Music] an unfair game one that almost 2 000 prisoners can only sit and watch but how did the jail get so inhumanly overcrowded in the first place the reason is president duterte's war on drugs in the philippines duterte wants to clean the country up in a drastic way over a period of six months he had four thousand drug dealers murdered in broad daylight the country has become a police state out of simple fear of being killed in 2017 about one million drug dealers turned themselves into the police and every day the president throws hundreds of people behind bars the prisons are bursting at the seas but the filipino justice system is not prepared in the least to deal with so many people with over seven hundred thousand pending trials and only one thousand six hundred lawyers a verdict can take years years in which the prisoners in south cotabato jail must wait in suspense ronnie has now made it through at least one night the night was hot and long it's the following morning 5 a.m as a newbie neil is not yet allowed outside with the others he has to wait and returns in his thoughts to his wife and children he's not the only one with such thoughts here many are plagued by them including janel berges the 35 year old has been imprisoned for five years for running a con he is accused of embezzlement and defrauding customers he acted out of necessity to help his family scrape by so may happen my life i realized that he's it's always it's very sad because we have two children three children waiting for me what would i do without your smart mouth throwing me a you kicking me out got my head spinning no okay i can't pain you down for janelle it's above all the desperation the waiting that makes jail so hard meanwhile he has arrived at the middle of the hierarchy that means he is allowed to cook and prepare food with others that they bought themselves everything is done under the watchful eye of the marshals of course and of the president still knives and sharp objects are allowed no one rations the portions but all this requires money for chicken fish or rice or generous visitors that's why janelle pulls together with a few of his fellow prisoners as they say a problem shared is a problem halved some by noodles psychologically the situation is unbelievably difficult and no one can escape from the situation above all the newbie ronniel is under constant observation he's not prohibited from cooking his own food but he has to earn the privilege first with cleaning beauty at least that lets him spend some time outside can he enjoy some fresh air in jail no chance it stinks disgusting [Music] at least i'm outside and can move around even if the work's degrading ronniel knows he can't sink any lower he has to follow the rules for he's never alone in here everyone sees him sees every misstep and every misstep is punished with food deprivation come on get up get in line 9 a.m meal time is the high point of the day for newbies and the low status prisoners bowl of rice with vegetables the next one won't come for several hours and they eat in the dark cells of south cotabato jail [Music] a prison that is not only drastically overcrowded it is also overshadowed by a hopelessness that affects everyone no matter where they stand in the hierarchy regardless of whether they can move freely play basketball or do something else it's all just a distraction a distraction from the waiting from the constant hope and disappointment almost no one here has been convicted almost all are awaiting a verdict hearings do take place every month and with them lingers the hope that one's own turn will come one's own turn to be free but waiting for a trial and a verdict can last years sometimes decades if it ever comes to trial those here the longest have been waiting for over 15 years a psychological strain that not everyone can withstand in five years janelle has already been summoned to a hearing 23 times and every time it's been postponed every time the court was overcrowded he wishes he could turn back time give back the money he stole the worst part about it his wife is only a few meters away from him also behind bars in the wing for women as an accessory to his fraud it's all my fault and what hurts even more is the thought of my children my wife can't see them and can't take care of them our children are alone when they have problems we can't help them we can't contact them can't even give them more support i can't do anything but wait i miss my family so much i can't take it anymore [Music] janelle and his wife are separated by less than 300 meters lovelin berges is also behind bars in south cotabato jail the reason she is accused of having known about her husband's fraud they are allowed to see each other once a week but they hardly ever see their children they live too far away are poor and can't afford the trip to the jail the other women are in a situation similar to loveland most are in jail for abusing drugs and prostitution because of the fast money and the hope of somehow escaping poverty but that desperation has driven them into an even deeper futility into a hopeless waiting a jail in which desperation frustration and the struggle for survival live side by side in the smallest space possible up to 100 prisoners at a time are stuffed into cells the size of shoeboxes massive overcrowding and nerve-wracking waiting on the daily fair privacy no chance and the hope of being released is zero that's why south cotabato jail is one of the toughest prisons in the world it is a massive undertaking for the guards a huge mass of people that can barely be managed that rules itself rodrigo baludio uses the last power play at his disposal time for his so-called greyhound a surprise inspection of the cells there's nothing to see here go away from the fence say sir and hurry up about once a month the cells and their inmates are inspected by six guards each they know they can't stop the smuggling of contraband but they can at least minimize it strictly forbidden are above all guns and knives everything that is dangerous or even lethal paludio is not surprised to find something right away and now comes the hardest part of the job [Music] [Music] we confiscate everything that's not allowed in the cells and try to find out who it belongs to this person will be punished the problem is finding the owner as no one admits it all the same palludio's team gives its best effort every corner of the cell is searched no matter how disgusting it is it stinks in here like old urine but it's my job this is part of the job except for visiting days the prisoners are forbidden to have contact with the outside world cell phone [Music] number if we find out who the phone belongs to he won't be allowed to have any more visitors and will be put in solitary confinement the guards are in luck if they find the owner they'll finally have the upper hand and can set an example by punishing him severely and thus win some respect i'm not sure but i think he's in this cell will check [Music] valuation definitely wants to identify the prisoner he knows that the searchers are just a drop in the bucket but they have no hope of winning the struggle [Music] there are too few of them to keep all the cells in check but every find and every punishment means a tiny bit more authority and one of the toughest prisons in the world authority that ronniel also feels he quickly learns whom he has to respect even the one hour a day he gets to spend outside is not let him sit down more everything costs money even air to breathe ranil is fleeced for every cent there's a logic to it he shouldn't have anything anymore except respect for others and fear [Music] i can't take it here i can't stand all the people inside i can't breathe and outside i'm not myself and all this because i got in a fight with a cashier ranil says that he got in a fight over money with a cashier while on drugs and her boyfriend pulled a knife ranil had to defend himself i wish it hadn't happened i'd never react that way again in the future i have a family and whenever i think of them i wonder why i defended myself why i didn't just let myself get killed because i have no idea how to survive in here survival that's the goal of every one of the inmates in one of the world's most overcrowded prisons some live a life of oppression while others are rulers of the jail still today is the one day a week everyone waits for that has great meaning for everyone because everyone needs visiting day there are two new visitors here every saturday family and friends can visit the prisoners for three hours the government calls visiting day an accommodation in return for how long the prisoners have to wait for a trial officially the visitors can bring anything they want as long as it's not dangerous food money clothing and as much of it as they want for the guards it's the most difficult and stressful day of the week secretly they know they can't check everything but they at least try to find contraband knives guns cell phones anything lethal or that provides contact to the outside world has to stay outside we try not to miss anything but certain situations make it easy to smuggle things in these days are always so hectic none of us is perfect of course [Applause] that's why it's not only objects that get searched each visitor is also thoroughly frisked give me the fish and go into the booth anyone caught trying to smuggle something in is put on a list the next time it happens the person loses permission to visit [Music] lucy and sierra visit their father in prison every saturday he has been in the overcrowded jail for six months on a charge of attempted murder as with everyone it's unclear what really happened how long he'll be here and if he'll ever get out again at all but one thing is certain his family needs him and he needs his family i feel my family's love even though i'm inside here they know i'm a victim they stand by me i'm happy they visit me every week i need my husband i'm all alone with the kids i hope he gets justice soon it's a brief moment of happiness but still it's a positive emotion behind bars joy but under supervision supervision of the marshals and of the president of course are they maintaining order or do they want to see what's changing hands at least today they're giving their inferiors a small sense of freedom look what i brought you dad in the philippines around 70 of children grow up without both parents lack of money drives fathers to work far from home in big cities or they resort to crime and criminals land in the endless holding pattern of the country's jails like south cotabato jail here the wish for freedom is and remains for most prisoners just that a wish [Music] visitors gifts and above all money to buy everything behind bars they need to survive many prisoners can only stand by and watch visiting day shows them what they don't have some are resigned to their fate but romeo gomez tries to be creative he carves and builds little houses which he sells on visiting day to earn at least a little money he himself never has visitors not one single person has visited him in 15 years [Music] it's because of my case it all began when i developed a good relationship with my niece we were very close and the family was happy that i took care of her until this unexpected thing [Music] we don't care what happens to you he hasn't been convicted by a court but his family has condemned him even inside the walls of the jail no one wants anything to do with him he lives in the somewhat more spacious wing for seniors and he survives only on the daily food rations and begging it's a daily struggle no one comes and brings me toothpaste or so i can't count on anyone so i go around every day and ask the others for things sometimes i also sell my food ration to get some money no one in the jail sympathizes with romeo gomez the case of loveland berges however who was only an accomplice but is being punished like drug dealers murderers and rapists seems unfair pointless being separated from her children breaks her heart but at least she gets to see her husband on visiting day i'm always happy to see him but above all i hope each time that our children will come visit us it would be a nice surprise sadly it happens very rarely it is hope that helps loveland persevere behind bars the hope of one day seeing her children again the meetings with her husband janelle are the high point of the week and yet it is always an inner struggle to forgive him to not blame him for her situation thanks for cooking you're welcome [Music] let us pray lord thank you dear lord we thank you for this food thank you for protecting us in this situation for always being there for us we ask you to keep giving us strength take care of our children our family protect them and us thank you for giving us so much strength amen it's bizarre what happens behind bars here but sometimes surprises happen even in jail [Music] um [Music] i am so happy i really want to talk to them daily to be in contact with the outside world to see my children but seeing my in-laws is also wonderful i am so thankful and happy but still it is a short moment of happiness if and when loveland and janelle will ever be released if they will ever be allowed to go home again no one knows almost none of the 1618 prisoners almost all are waiting for a hearing officially the marshal has a court appearance next month but will it take place the president has already given up hope he doesn't even try anymore to get a hearing still his powerful status gives him a good life a life romeo gomez will never lead he will probably always be alone without hope of release the newbie he has to accept that from now on south cotabato jail is his new home renewal has good prospects for a hearing soon but if it will actually happen and if it will result in a verdict is unclear in the last few days i've tried to fit in but it seems like it only gets harder and harder every day i never would have imagined a life like this it is above all the uncertainty that scares him so much a hopeless situation that puts dangerous thoughts in his head i think a lot about how to get out of here i don't even think about my family anymore there's just one thought in my head escape getting out of here as fast as possible the 35 year old filipino doesn't want to accept what lies ahead the hardest period in his life is only just beginning a period in which he's all on his own a life behind bars in one of the toughest prisons in the world south cotabato jail you