De Lima advocates anew for passage of Comprehensive Prison Reform law


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Photo Credit: Ezra Acayan

Amid the reported surge of tuberculosis (TB) cases among Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) and other Bureau of Corrections (BuCor)- administered penal facilities, re-electionist Senator Leila M. de Lima pushed anew for the passage of a Comprehensive Prison Reform law.

De Lima, a human rights and social justice champion who has continually fought for much needed reforms in the country’s prison and correctional systems, maintained that a Comprehensive Prison Reform law would help address age-old problems at BuCor and other correctional and jail facilities in the country.

Sa pamamagitan lamang ng malawakang reporma – structural, organizational, and physical reforms – masosolusyunan ang sandamakmak na mga problema sa Bilibid at iba pang mga kulungan. Hindi sapat ang mga panandalian o short-term band-aid solutions lang sa ganitong suliranin, katulad ng paggiba sa mga kubol,” she said.

“The main problem is severe congestion, which is the root cause of the many ills besetting our correctional system, such as prison-based criminality, recidivism, spread of contagious diseases and, worse, deaths,” she added.

Dr. Henry Fabro of BuCor Health Services reportedly confirmed that 200 out of 208,000 PDLs inside the prison have been diagnosed with TB. He said the PDLs are now in isolation and receiving medical treatment.

As confirmed by BuCor spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag, affected PDLs are treated in temporary wards set up around NBP as their general hospital undergoes renovation.

De Lima has repeatedly pushed for measures that would help uphold the rights and dignity of PDLs and ensure that they receive humane treatment while in prison.

 “Right to health is everyone’s human right, including PDLs’,” she said. “Ang maayos at responsableng pagtrato sa mga bilanggo ay bahagi ng tungkulin ng Estado, upang tulungan silang mareporma, at sa gayon ay makabalik muli sa lipunan at makilahok sa pagpapabuti nito.

“Paano makakapagbagong buhay ang mga bilanggo kung sa loob ng mga kulungan ay nahaharap at dumadanas pa rin sila ng patuloy na krimen, pagkakasakit at hirap na dulot ng kapabayaan at kawalang tugon sa kanilang suliranin?” De Lima asked.

During the 18th Congress, De Lima filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 180 or the “Prison Reform Act of 2019” and SB No. 181 or the “Unified Corrections and Jail Management System Act of 2019,” both of which aims to help initiate comprehensive reforms in the country’s prison and correctional systems.

SB No. 180 seeks to institutionalize prison reform and restorative justice in the country’s correctional system to ensure the effective rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates while according full respect of their rights.

SB No. 181, meanwhile, seeks to unify corrections and management system by centralizing the management of all prisons and jails under a single government authority to be called National Commission on Corrections and Jail Management (NCCJM).

The Commission, as the central authority responsible for the management of prison cells and jails, shall develop and implement programs on safe and effective custody of detainees. It is also mandated to ensure that its programs and services place special consideration to areas of concern, including PDLs’ right to adequate food, water, living and work spaces, and other basic necessities. (30)

Office of Senator Leila de Lima
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