July 17, 2024

■  Ofelia C. Empian 

Prison guards at the La Trinidad Municipal Jail were on high alert recently when an unknown object was thrown from outside the walls and caught in the facility’s wired fence. 

The unknown object? Two packs of momma or betel nut chew. 

This was the anecdote shared by Acting Jail Warden J/Insp. Norman Palangyos, during the recent municipal peace and order council meeting, where he reiterated to the public that momma or betel nut and tobacco products are not allowed inside the facility. 

Palangyos said the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology bans the chewing of momma and cigarette or tobacco or vaping inside the facility for health and sanitary reasons. 

He said they suspect the recent incident was an attempt by a newly-released person deprived of liberty (PDL) to bring in momma as a request made by other PDLs. 

“It’s a good thing the prison guards were on alert, when some of the PDLs were seemingly excited to go out to bring in their laundry,” Palangyos said. 

When the guards went out to check the premises where the PDLs hang their laundry, they found out about the two packs of momma hanging on the wired fence. He said the PDLs were not accosted but were reminded about the policy. 

Palangyos said they are implementing BJMP Memorandum Circular 2011- 05 or the Guidelines on Smoking Prohibition Policy in National Headquarters, Regional Offices, and All Jail Facilities Nationwide. 

One of its guidelines is the absolute smoking prohibition in or on the offices, buildings, and grounds and in all jail premises and “no smoking” areas will be designated in all jail facilities and offices.

He said the price of momma and tobacco or vape products will more than triple once it gets inside the jail since it is a contraband. He said one roll of tobacco will cost up to P1,000. 

As part of the program of the BJMP, it is implementing the alcohol and smoke cessation program where PDLs are assessed if they need counseling with substance use or abuse to help them cope once inside the jail. 

The PDLs will go through one-on-one counseling by trained personnel of the BJMP. 

“The smokers are not the only one who will be affected but everyone in the facility. Momma chewing is not allowed because we are thinking about their health and because of sanitation purposes since we know how unsanitary momma spit is,” he said. 

As for illegal drugs, he said they are declared as one of the 14 drug-free jail facilities in the region. He said the PDLs and personnel of the facility were all declared negative of illegal drugs as certified by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency-Cordillera.    The La Trinidad Municipal Jail has 21 PDLs in its custody.