De Lima hits PAO for inaction on 862 detainees

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has chided the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) for neglecting its duty when it failed to act on the immediate release of some 862 detainees from prison under a new law adjusting penalties for light offenses.

De Lima, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, said PAO’s neglect of its public duties showed its mockery of the Philippine justice system.

“Just because no one is watching, just because no one is keeping count, doesn’t grant unbridled license to be neglectful of public duties. This is the attitude that we should maintain in government service,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 435.

“Apparently, however, some officials in the current administration display a different mindset. Nagpapabaya sa tungkulin. Papetiks-petiks. Dedma,” she added.

Republic Act No. 10951, which was filed to benefit detainees with petty crimes and long prison sentences, amended the Revised Penal Code and adjusted conditions for the imposition of prison time and fines on criminal offenders.

During budget deliberations in the Senate, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon disclosed that 862 inmates who are already entitled to be released remain locked up.

“Anong ginagawa ni Atty. Persida Acosta at ng PAO sa kanilang mandato sa ilalim ng RA 10951? How could they sleep at night knowing that only two out of 862 qualified prisoners have been released since the passage of said law a little over a year ago?”, De Lima asked.

De Lima, a former justice secretary, reminded that prisoners are human being who are entitled to fair treatment, noting that imprisonment is neither a license to have them languish in the dark forever, nor is it a death sentence.

“Let us listen to the experts and reform advocates: treat prisoners like the human beings they really are. Rehabilitate them for someday they will be reintegrated back to society,” she said.

“Babalik sila sa ating lipunan balang araw. Nais ba natin na bumalik sila na nababalot ng poot at dilim at galit sa pagpapawalang-halaga sa kanilang karapatang pantao? Let us then plant seeds of hope and respect in our prisoners and their families. Let us finally uproot the weeds of mistrust and misgivings in our midst,” she added.

Motivated by the global trend towards restorative justice in the laws concerning crime and punishment, De Lima filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1879 which seeks to integrate the management of the country’s jails and prisons under one agency tasked to provide better treatment and rehabilitation programs for all detainees and prisoners last July.

Last Dec. 10, she also filed SB No. 2130 which seeks to establish prison reform and restorative justice in the country’s correctional system, bearing in mind the need to restore human dignity even as to these found to have transgressed our laws.

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