MANILA, Oct. 21, 2014— Most of the country’s prisoners have been locked inside overcrowded facilities for years without conviction due to the slow justice system, according to a church prison ministry report.
The CBCP Episcopal Commission for Prison Pastoral Care (ECPPC) said only 35 percent of the 114,368 inmates under the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and the Bureau of Correction (BuCor) were actually found guilty of crimes and are serving their sentences and the remaining 65 percent are only charged but have never been convicted.
“They are detained because their alleged crimes are not bailable or they can’t afford to pay the bail,” said Rodolfo Diamante, ECPPC executive secretary.
Diamante reiterated that the slow judicial process for jail inmates remains a major challenge which, in turn, results in prisons congestion. He also said that the “grossly deficient” facilities in national prisons and various jails further give rise to “sub-human” living and conditions of prisoners.
“This is aggravated by insufficient budget for the basic needs of the prisoners,” he said.
Reports reaching the ECPPC also revealed that there are incidents where the exercise of authority is abused to the extent of degrading the dignity of prisoners and detainees, such as maltreatment, sexual harassment, extortion, and other inhumane treatment.
They also cited the “struggle for supremacy” in prison which often results in “inmates exploiting or abusing other inmates and detainees” for personal gains and exacerbating the problems, “particularly in the use of prison labor”.
Diamante also lamented the “inadequate” provisions for the protection of youth offenders, women offenders, elderly, the mentally challenged and political prisoners.
“The objective of transforming the correctional process into an educating and humanizing experience for offenders has been dampened by the insufficient provision of the inmates’ basic needs,” he said.
The study was released this week as the Church observes the yearly Prison Awareness Week.
According to Diamante, also part of the problem is a justice system that is still based on punitive measures and a society where many view punishment as the best method of control.
He said that institutional imprisonment is not meant only to punish the offender but also to “correct and to prepare them to rejoin society after serving sentence”.
“Correction as part of the criminal justice system is both complex and crucial. It is essential to the maintenance of peace and order in society and of the human dignity of its straying members. Unfortunately, correction is least seen and known by the public,” said Diamante.
“Society is eager to recognize the duty of the state to punish the offender, but reluctant to see its equally important role to ‘correct’ the offender, little realizing that injustice and other societal factors contribute to the making of an offender,” he said.
In the Philippines, there are three levels in the institutional approach to correction. The first consists of the national penitentiaries under the BuCor of the Department of Justice (DOJ) for offenders sentenced to more than three years of imprisonment.
System of prisons
Diamante said the second level is composed of the provincial jails under the office of the governor and city and district jails under the BJMP of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for offenders whose sentences are from seven months to three years.
At the third level, he added, are the municipal jails under the BJMP, for offenders sentenced to not more than six months of imprisonment.
There are currently seven penitentiaries strategically located all over the Philippines under the administrative control and supervision of the BuCor— two of them are in Metro Manila, two in Luzon, one is in the Visayas, and two are in Mindanao.
The ECPPC study showed that as of April 2014, these penitentiaries had a total of 39,127 inmates. More than half of them or 22,826 inmates are at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.
The agency said these Bilibid inmates are distributed in three different compounds— maximum security (14, 541); Camp Sampaguita, inclusive of Medium Security Compound, Reception and Diagnostic Center, Metro Jail and Youth Rehabilitation Center (7,926); and the Minimum Security Compound (359).
The other penal institution within Metro Manila is the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City and in Tagum, with a population of 2,235 inmates, it said.
The other penitentiaries include the Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm in Occidental Mindoro which has 2,067 inmates; the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Palawan with 2,409; the Leyte Regional Prison in Abuyog, Leyte with 1,586 prisoners; the San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm in Zamboanga with 1,547; and the Davao Prison and Penal Farm in Davao del Norte with 6,457 inmates.
The ECPPC also said that there are 81 provincial jails, 143 city jails and 1,491 municipal jails in the country, with approximately 75,241 prisoners.
In addition to the traditional levels of criminal and judicial institutions, there are also military stockades under the Armed Forces of the Philippines, detention centers – at the National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Immigration and Philippine National Police. (CBCPNews)