Drilon prods DOJ on Bilibid transfer, decries deplorable condition of PH prison system

Drilon prods DOJ on Bilibid transfer, decries deplorable condition of PH prison system

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — Alarmed by a 344-percent jail congestion rate, Senate
Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon on Wednesday asked the Department
of Justice (DOJ) to come up with a roadmap for the decongestion of
jails as he decried the deplorable conditions of prisons in the
country.

Drilon deplored what he calls “inhuman” the 344 percent congestion
rate in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa, which puts at risk the
health and wellbeing of thousands of inmates especially during a
pandemic.

Drilon said the DOJ should take into serious consideration the long
overdue transfer of the overpopulated New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa
City to another location and begin the preliminary works before the
Duterte administration ends in June next year.

“This is the long term solution. I am bringing this because of the
present pandemic. Hindi po mga kabayo itong mga nakakulong para
matulog ng nakatayo. It is inhuman to have a 344 percent congestion
rate given the pandemic,” said Drilon during the Senate committee on
finance’s deliberation on the P26.26 billion budget of the DOJ and its
attached agencies.

“The bottomline is we want to decongest our jails and provide better
facilities for our fellow Filipinos who ran afoul with the law. They
are not hopeless human beings. But sometimes when you look at their
conditions, it looks like we have given up hope for them, which should
not be the case,” Drilon said.

The Bureau of Corrections said that the NBP alone, the congestion rate
stands at 344 percent. At present, there are 28,545 prisoners serving
sentences in NBP when its original and ideal capacity is only 6,435.

In response, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that “they made
it very clear that insofar as the correctional system or correctional
services are concerned, we’ll make it a point that before we end our
administration in the Department of Justice there will be some very
clear plans about the intention to transfer the location of the
National Bilibid Prison elsewhere.”

Drilon said the NBP is one of the most expensive prisons in the world.
The country’s main correctional stands on a very valuable piece of
land in Muntinlupa, which Drilon said can be used instead for national
development.

“Why can we not move the NBP out of Muntinlupa? We must transfer the
NBP outside the capital region and provide better facilities. We
should have a roadmap,” said Drilon, adding that the proceeds for the
sale of NBP properties can be used to finance the building of bigger
and better prison facilities outside Metro Manila.

“May we suggest to the secretary that part of your exit report at the
end of this administration is a roadmap,” he reiterated.

Drilon noted that in other countries the private sector has been
tapped to run penitentiaries.

Meanwhile, Drilon sought the immediate release of persons deprived of
liberty who are qualified to avail of the reduced sentences due to the
amended Revised Penal Code.

Drilon authored Republic Act No. 10951 or the Amendments to the
Revised Penal Code, signed into law in 2017, adjusted fines, as well
as the amount or the value of the property and damage on which a
penalty is raised.

“We cannot allow the continued deprivation of liberty because of the
inefficiency of the BuCor. Kawawa naman ang mga iyon. We aggravate the
congestion of our jails by the simple inability of the BuCor to send
on time the carpeta or records of persons deprived of liberty,” said
Drilon.

“This is not just an issue of congestion but an issue of equity. The
law already reduced the sentence, then the PDLs are entitled to early
release,” he added. (ai/mtvn)

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