By Nelson Groom
An ex-gangster has lifted the lid on the lawless nature of life behind bars in the Philippines’ notorious prisons – where ‘popstars performed at lavish parties’ and ‘live pigs were smuggled inside’.
Edgardo Perez Able, 68, was welcomed into the ranks of the notorious Sigue-Sigue Commando gang inside New Bilibid prison in Muntinlupa city after being convicted of murder for shooting dead a father and son in 1991.
The heavily-tatted killer, who has been exiled from his hometown by his victims’ family since his release, revealed inmates had access to some alarming contraband during his 24 years while incarcerated.
He claims drug-lords were paid to smuggle guns and grenades within the prison’s walls – even booking performances from celebrity girl bands for wild three-day parties.
Edgardo walked free in 2015 and received all of the hand-drawn gang inkings which cover his body while in prison, carried out by other inmates using Indian ink and sewing needles.
He said: “There were different gangs inside, but ours had the most glamorous celebrations.
“The parties to celebrate the gang’s anniversary happened every three years and lasted three days.
“Our families would sleep, eat and bathe inside for the duration. Drug lords even paid live bands and celebrities to perform. Some inmates were filthy rich.
“There were fresh cattle and pigs smuggled inside. That’s a lot better than the usual legumes and fermented fish we would be given to eat.”
Prisons in the Philippines are normally run by gangs and notoriously overcrowded – particularly since President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs began.
Edgardo said one party even featured a performance from a high-profile girl group who could not be named for fear of reprisals.
He claims gangs also kept the prison aflush with weapons, sneaking grenades, guns and ammunition inside for as little as 10,000 pesos (£142).
It is no wonder why there was a demand for protection; Edgardo painted a chilling picture of how dangerous life was inside the gates.
Edgardo said: “I could befriend a prison guard and pay him 10,000 pesos just to smuggle grenades, guns and ammunitions.
“Nothing was impossible if you had money.
“Sometimes I took part in prison riots. If there was trouble, we used improvised shotguns, arrows made of construction nails, and grenades.
“Then there were days when inmates were lusting for sex. They would ask new inmates to take a bath then sodomize the poor guys.
“Being part of a gang is very important when you’re inside the prison. You’ll never know who’s going to kill you, so you need someone watching your back.”
Edgardo was convicted of shooting dead a father and son after flying into a rage during a workplace dispute in 1991.
The repercussions from his crime followed him into the free world: he is now exiled from the place he once called home, Lucena city, by the family of his victims.
Edgardo, who now lives in a shack in Muntinlupa city, said he feels remorse for what he did and is grateful to have left the prison system.
But his body is forever marked with the tales of his past, including a tattoo of a tiger – the symbol of the Sigue-Sigue gang – and the names of fallen members was inked with behind bars.
Edgardo said: “I never asked myself if what I’m doing is right when I killed those people, I was not thinking of the consequences. I felt so guilty I surrendered immediately.
“Now, the victims’ family doesn’t want to see my face. They forbid me from going outside – no different from the prison. They said if they found a chance, I’ll get what I deserve.
“At first, I felt like I’m in exile, but life must go on. I don’t want to be defeated I have to keep moving forward.
“I’m happy that I’m earning a little, I can move around freely, and I’m no longer eating prison food. Life inside the prison is hard.”