Senator Leila M. de Lima today called on President Duterte and his allies in the two houses of Congress to set their priorities straight by addressing the perennial problems that have long been plaguing the country’s prison system.
In her message at the 30th celebration of the Prison Awareness Week, De Lima said Duterte should seriously address the problems confronting the country’s detention facilities instead of focusing on earning “brownie points.”
“If he is really serious in addressing the issues of our prison system, Duterte should, at the very least, take note of and call on Senator Gordon… to finally act on the Resolutions I filed, and accordingly conduct investigations in aid of legislation to come up with a comprehensive solution on how to decongest and improve conditions in jails and detention facilities all over the country,” she said.
It may be recalled that in August 2016, De Lima has filed Proposed Senate Resolution (PSR) No. 97 seeking a Senate inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the current state of jails and penitentiaries all over the country.
Months after, De Lima wrote to Sen. Richard Gordon, who chairs the Senate Justice and Human Rights Committee, requesting him to give priority to PSR No. 97 she filed, but to no avail.
Last May, she also filed PSR No. 355 urging the Gordon committee to conduct an immediate investigation into the discovery of a “secret jail facility” at the Manila Police District Station 1, Tondo, Manila.
“Enero pa lang, nanawagan na po ako kay Senator Gordon na aksyunan na ang mga ito. Sa kasamaang palad, wala pa ring nangyayaring pagdinig ukol sa mga ito, Malinaw naman po: Dapat igalang ang karapatan ng bawat Pilipino, anuman po ang kanyang katayuan sa buhay,” she added.
In 2015, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology alone accounts for 93,961 prisoners, which is 398% congestion rate in all the 461 jails in the country today, while the Bureau of Corrections (BOC) with 41,144 inmates in its seven prison and penal farms.
At early 2016, the Philippines has been 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.
As such, De Lima regarded as “publicity stunt” Duterte’s recent visit at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City where he reportedly promised inmates a television in each cell.
As the first political prisoner experiencing oppression under the Duterte administration, the Senator from Bicol said she now has greater understanding for addressing the problems of injustices in the country.
“Ang bansa po natin ngayon ay nababalot ng kadiliman, nakakulong sa rehas ng kasinungalingan at panlilinlang ng iilang lasing sa kapangyarihan. I was imprisoned based on trumped-up charges, fabricated by Duterte and his cohorts. Despite their continuous political persecution, I will not be cowed. I will continue to have faith. I know that truth is on my side, and I am innocent,” she said.
When she was justice secretary, De Lima had steered the passage into law of the modernization of the BOC 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 then administration’s intensified drive against criminality, the former justice secretary pointed out 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.
De Lima, a known human rights defender, noted her fight is not hers alone as “laban ito ng lahat ng nakakulong na walang kasalanan. Laban ito ng minsang nalihis ng landas at gustong magbagong buhay. Laban ito para bigyang hustisya ang pagkamatay ng mga hindi na binigyan ng pagkakataong mabuhay. Laban ito ng sambayanang Pilipinong nais ng tunay na pagbabago.”
With the theme “Your Love is My Light and My Salvation,” the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)-Episcopal Commission heads the observance of the 30th celebration of the Prison Awareness week from Oct. 23-29.
In line with the celebration, the Commission, through its Chaplains and Volunteers in Prison Service, has lined up activities nationwide, including the Mass held today at the CBCP Chapel in Intramuros, Manila.