EDITORIAL - Refuge of scoundrels

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Whether he bribed his way to freedom or managed to elude his two police guards, the escape of a South Korean-American drug suspect is an embarrassment that security forces cannot afford to see repeated.

Jun No was arrested and tagged as a major supplier of the party drug Ecstasy in Manila. He was taken to the East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City for an appendectomy and walked out of the hospital after surgery on April 15. Police said No’s companion, Darleen “Soeyang” Son, gave him P3,000 for his escape.

No’s escorts, Senior Police Officer 2 Michael Macarubbo of the Drug Enforcement Group and Intelligence Officer 2 Eugenio Eugenio of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency turned themselves in to their superiors and face charges in connection with the escape. Not surprisingly, both denied being bribed to allow No to flee.

Apart from ferreting out the truth, the escape should prompt authorities to review policies involving hospitalization for detainees. Hospitals are being turned into a refuge by moneyed scoundrels. Incarceration can make anyone ill, and even more so if the detention facility is one of the acutely congested, vermin-infested cells in this country. But only wealthy detainees enjoy the privilege of confinement in private rooms in private hospitals.

This has led to several scandals in which wealthy inmates were found to have been living it up while in hospital confinement, with sexy entertainers among their regular visitors. Certain hospitals, whether unwittingly or deliberately, have contributed to this abuse of what should merely be a privilege granted in case of emergencies, with doctors issuing certificates of illness that can keep an inmate confined in the hospital for many months. One particular hospital in the city of Manila has gained notoriety for this.

Even when there is a high risk of flight, privileged inmates are not even properly secured with handcuffs when they leave their hospital room, which was the case with Jun No, according to the police.

Poor inmates also get sick, but they don’t enjoy hospital stays lasting several months, and they are taken to private hospitals only when state-run health centers lack the facilities to treat their ailments. Following the escape of Jun No, the government should review its policies governing hospital confinement for detained suspects and national prisoners. Hospitals cannot serve as jump-off points for the escape of criminals.

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