Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has objected to a government proposal to transfer the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City to an “isolated” facility similar to the maximum security federal prison on Alcatraz Island in the United States.
De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, said the proposed construction of an “Alcatraz-like” prison facility will not only hamper the rehabilitation of Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) but will also tolerate the violations of their rights.
“Those who advocate for the transfer of NBP to an ‘isolated place,’ an ‘Alcatraz-like’ facility, among whom are Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar and BuCor Director-General Gerard Bantag, are of jurassic minds,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 642.
“The concept of restorative justice is totally alien to these bull-minded law enforcers. Human rights, to them, are a trash idea. The Duterte psyche. Shame!” she added.
De Lima further commented that isolating the PDLs and confining them in an Alcatraz-like prison will isolate them from their family and other visitors.
“It would make them more hardened, hence, non-reformable,” she said.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar complained about some NBP personnel who allowed the entry of contraband into the prison for a fee and about illegal structures inside the penitentiary facility similar to a village full of “mazes.”
To address systemic corruption and other prison-based crimes inside the NBP, Eleazar reportedly disclosed that the Duterte government is seriously considering the transfer of national penitentiary to an Alcatraz-like prison facility.
According to him, the proposed construction of an isolated facility has already been discussed with Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerard Bantag when the former was still the National Capital Region Police Office chief.
The Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, operated from 1934 to 1963, was a maximum security prison built on Alcatraz Island in the US. It used to house the most difficult and dangerous felons in America before it shut down due to high maintenance costs.
De Lima, a former justice secretary, has been pushing for the construction of the modern prison facility inside the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija to address the worsening congestion in the NBP.
The plan, which was initiated during the previous administration, is envisioned to transfer the NBP and the Correctional Institution for Women to the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Gen. Tinio, Nueva Ecija where a suitable facility for inmates will be built through the Public-Private Partnership under the Build-Transfer-Maintain scheme.
While initially open to the project, the Duterte government, however, aborted the planned construction project because, according to then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, “the cost and transfer of the building is too high” and “not practical.”
An advocate of prison system reform, De Lima has urged her colleagues in the Senate to support the 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. (30)