Palace okays Bilibid decongestion plan

Vicente “Tito” Sotto  III

SENATE President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III confirmed that Malacañang has agreed to transfer heinous crime convicts to regional penitentiaries in a bid to decongest the jampacked National Bilibid Prison (NBP).

Sotto said the agreement is a spin-off of his proposal to put up penal facilities in all regions to free up space in the NBP.

Pending the Senate's final action on his proposed measure, Sotto said Malacañang has suggested that penitentiaries be put up instead in the country's three major islands - one each in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The regional penitentiary in Luzon will be put up in Nueva Ecija where the Fort Magsaysay military reservation is situated in Laur.

The Palace earlier announced its plan to transfer the NBP to Nueva Ecija and sell portions of the prime property in Muntinlupa City where the present national penitentiary is located. Funds from the sale will be used for the modernization of the country's penal institutions.

Sotto said the proposed Visayas prison facility would be in Jamindan, Capiz, where the Camp Gen. Macario Peralta is, while the suggested Mindanao penitentiary will be in Panabo City, Davao del Norte where the Davao Penal Colony is built.

Sotto said another facility would be built for high-profile drug convicts. "There will be a separate one, probably in Region 4, iyong penitentiary for high-level drug traffickers. Hiwalay sila dun sa Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao," he said.

Sotto said aside from decongesting the NBP his original proposal to have regional penitentiaries was aimed at bringing prisoners closer to their families and upping their chances of reformation.

"Sa Bilibid kapag ang isang convict hindi na binibisita ng pamilya niya, doon na nagsisimulang magloko, doon na sumasama kung kani- kaninong mga gang, kung ano anong naiisipang gawin. Pero iyong mga binibisita, iyon usually hindi napapasama," Sotto said.

"Paano ka bibisitahin kung tiga- Negros o Sultan Kudarat ang pamilya mo tapos ikaw ay nakakulong sa Bilibid? Hindi ka talaga madadalaw nang pamilya mo, baka kahit once a year hindi ka madadalaw. Ganyan ang nangyayari," he added.