Inmates in Manila jail still waiting for transfer home
Hong Kong inmates serving lengthy sentences in a Philippine prison where even the most basic necessities have to be bought are anxiously awaiting news about their year-old application for a transfer back home to serve out their jail terms.
The eight prisoners at New Bilibid Prison in Muntinpula city in Manila submitted their applications in February last year, but have yet to hear back from the authorities.
'Many of them have been jailed for a long time here and are getting old,' inmate Tang Lung-wei wrote in a letter to his Hong Kong lawyer, Paul Tse Wai-chun. 'Their only wish is that they don't have to die away from home.'
Tang, who is awaiting a review of a 40-year sentence imposed on him after 11 years of detention, said money was 'the key to everything' in prison, including clothing, food and mobility.
Each prisoner gets a daily allowance of 50 pesos (HK$9) with which to buy two small meals and water.
Free water is available for an hour in the morning but inmates miss out if they cannot beat the competition from thousands of other inmates. In which case, they have to buy showering water at HK$1 per 30 litres and drinking water at HK$6.30 for 20 litres.
Any food in addition to the scant meals has to be bought from a market inside the prison, which sells vegetables, fish, meat and rice.
Tang said his fellow Hong Kong inmates were frustrated about being bullied by local inmates, especially gangsters who virtually run the prison. He also said that prison life was becoming increasingly difficult.
Tang, 40, Cheung Tai-on, 39, and Goh Sek-hung were arrested on drug charges in 2000.
They were detained for 11 years before Goh was freed for lack of evidence, while Tang and Cheung received their sentences.
Two months ago, they were moved to the notorious national prison while they await the review of their sentences.
Randy Chan, Tse's assistant, said that Tse had asked the Security Bureau to inquire whether the Hong Kong government had received any referrals from the Philippine authorities and to determine the normal procedures and protocols for the prison transfer.
Tse has given Tang HK$10,000 and Tang will also soon receive HK$4,000 donated by South China Morning Post readers.
A Security Bureau spokesman has confirmed receiving seven applications from the Hong Kong inmates.
The city has had an agreement with the Philippines on the transfer of prisoners since 2002.