Ex-Bicutan detainees hit back at immigration chief’s ‘fake news’ claim

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Bicutan detention centre
Some of the photographs showing overcrowded and insanitary conditions at the Bureau of Immigration’s Bicutan detention centre.

Former detainees of the Bicutan detention centre have hit back after an immigration chief said reports of ill-treatment and corruption were “fake news”.

In a press release issued today (Tuesday, July 30) the Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Jaime Morente also justified conditions at the centre. 

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He said: “These deportable aliens want first-class, five-star accommodation while being detained for immigration offences. 

“The detention centre is not a hotel, but it is decent and has the basic needs.”

This claim was immediately challenged by American Dave Bauer, who was locked up for six months in 2016.

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He said: “Decent, with the basic needs? By what standard do you issue such a ridiculous claim?

“Is 600 to 800 calories a day ‘decent’? I lost 50lbs. Is having to buy water to survive ‘decent’? Is a rat, roach, spider and snake infested living quarters ‘decent’?

“Is no medical care ‘decent’? Is it ‘decent’ to never allow due process?

“If the answer is ‘yes’, I will need to redefine my understanding of the word itself.”

Commissioner Morente’s press release today was in response to an article first published in 2014, but currently doing the rounds on social media. 

This included what was described as an interview with the BI’s Chief Legal Arvin Santos about a corrupt syndicate of prosecutors that took bribes from detainees. 

However, according to the statement, Mr Santos denies any involvement with the article. It says he has “vehemently denied issuing any statements on allegations of corruption, including extortion activities committed by Immigration jail guards against detained foreigners”.

“I was never interviewed and I never made such statements,” he said. “This is a five-year-old fake article was revived by a group with malicious intent. The spread of fake news is a criminal act and the public must report it to the social media administrators for it to be taken down.” 

Whether or not he did take part in any interview, his description of corruption at the centre as “fake news” has also angered former detainees. 

Commenting on Facebook, Michael Edwards, also from the USA, said: I am a former detainee. I have witnessed the corruption at the detainment facility every day by guards, admin, all levels. So of course [he] is going to call it fake news. His job is on the line!”

Frank Bohlert from Scotland, who was locked up for more than eight months, also issued a blunt rebuttal to the BI’s claims. He said: “Morente, you are a liar and obviously have no idea what happens within your organisation!”

However, Commissioner Morente’s statement emphasises that he has full and absolute knowledge of everything that occurs in Bicutan. 

He said: “Our detention centre has CCTV cameras that can be remotely viewed from our national operations centre here at the main office. 

“We are closely monitoring their activities, and with a click of a button, I can instantly see what they are doing at any time of the day.”

Should any wrongdoing at the centre ever be proven, these words may come back to haunt the commissioner.

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