Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has underscored the need for Congress to prioritize the passage of measures instituting sweeping reforms in the country’s prison system amid calls for the complete overhaul of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
De Lima, a former justice secretary, said the current controversy haunting BuCor should prompt much-needed reforms to focus not only on BuCor but also on the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and the provincial jail services as well.
“We should initiate sweeping changes not only in BuCor but within the entire prison system to make it more effective in eradicating corruption and addressing the pressing problems in our country’s penitentiary,” she said.
De Lima issued the statement amid calls for the overhaul of the agency following the controversy surrounding the botched release of several heinous crime convicts supposedly eligible for release under the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law.
Among those initially slated for release was former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who received seven life sentences for the rape-slay of Eileen Sarmienta and the murder of her friend Allan Gomez.
During the Senate hearing last Sept. 2, BuCor head Nicanor Faeldon admitted he signed a memorandum to start the process of Sanchez’s release, but he later withdrew it due to public outcry.
While Sanchez’s release was cancelled, Faeldon confirmed that the three of the seven rapist-killers of Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong have already been freed.
The lady Senator from Bicol urged her colleagues in the Senate to support the swift passage of her two measures – Senate Bill (SB) No. 180 and 181 – that both aim to help initiate comprehensive reforms in the country’s prison and correctional systems.
SB No. 181 seeks to integrate the management of the BuCor, BJMP and provincial jail services, under one agency to be called as the National Commission on Corrections and Jail Management (NCCJM).
Under the said measure, De Lima explained that the proposed NCCJM will be tasked to provide safeguarding of detainees, the custody and reformation of prisoners, and the professionalization of all correctional personnel.
“It will serve as central authority to implement the unified correctional system, and to plan and carry out integrated services and programs related to its custodial and reformatory mandates,” she said.
SB No. 180, meanwhile, 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.