SENATOR Leila de Lima has pressed for the immediate probe into the reported congestion and subhuman conditions in jails that encouraged the proliferation of illegal activities among the inmates.
She hopes that the Senate Justice and Human Rights Committee, chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, will give the matter its utmost attention as inmates continue to to be cramped into the already-populated jails under “unspeakable, uncivilized and inhumane condition.”
Last Jan. 10 De Lima sent a letter to Gordon a letter requesting him to give priority to Senate Resolution No. 97 seeking an inquiry into the current state of penitentiaries all over the country.
“This extreme overcrowding of prisoners in jails breeds a number of severe problems in jail management, including illness and poor hygiene among inmates, substandard sleeping accommodation, lack of food provision, among others,” she said.
“There is, likewise, a steady source of tension and hostility among prisoners who are cramped into congested cell areas. Most gang wars erupt despite the presence of jail guards who often lack professional training,” she said.
De Lima filed SRN 97 last Aug. 15 aimed at “instituting remedial measures that would ensure that the government accomplishes the goals of the penal and detention systems, including the protection of the rights and welfare of persons deprived of liberty.”
“They (inmates) may have transgressed the bounds of laws and rules of our society, but prisoners are still human beings who deserve to enjoy the basic rights to live decently and with dignity,” she said in her resolution.
In 2015, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) alone accounted for 93,961 prisoners, which is 398 percent congestion rate in all the 461 jails in the country today, while the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) with 41,144 inmates in its seven prison and penal farms.
In 2016 the Philippines was ranked 12th in the world with a prison population of 142,168, based on the World Prison Brief of the London-based International Centre for Prison Studies.
When she was justice secretary, De Lima had steered the passage into law of the modernization of the BuCor in 2013 as part of the then Aquino administration’s resolve to decongest and improve the facilities of the country’s jail system.
In view of the administration’s intensified drive against criminality, De Lima said that the government should look at the pitiful state of the country’s jails and penitentiaries as an equally pressing issue that needs to be addressed.
“Such appalling image depicts the deplorable state of jail and penitentiaries where prisoners suffer more severe penalty of horrific and barbaric living condition than the actual penalty that is supposed to be meted out for crimes they have committed,” she said.