De Lima urges more budget to decongest overcrowded jails

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged her colleagues in Congress to take a second look at important measures she filed that seek to address the longstanding issue on overcrowded detention cells.

De Lima said the Senate should consider allotting part of some deleted funds inserted into the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to address the perennial problem of jail congestion.

“I appeal, most fervently, to all concerned government officials and my fellow members in Congress, to seriously consider proposed measures, including infrastructure plans, that will decisively address the issue of overcrowded jails,” she said.

“Can the Senate and/or Bicam please consider allotting a portion of the deleted PhP70-B budget insertions for this urgent and most imperative concern? Please…” she added.

Senators recently agreed to delete PhP75 billion in additional funding that was purportedly “inserted” into the budget of DPWH under the proposed 2019 PhP3.757-billion national appropriations bill.

The New York Times earlier reported that jails in the Philippines have become “increasingly more packed, propelling the overall prison system to the top of the World Prison Brief’s list of the most overcrowded incarceration systems in the world” since the inception of Duterte’s bloody anti-drug campaign in 2016.

According to the lady Senator, about 900 women detainees share a small space in a jail that can house only 90 people at the Quezon City female dormitory in Camp Karingal, while 518 detainees of Dorm 5 in Manila City Jail share a room that is only designed for 170 occupants.

De Lima said these figures are “mere representative samples of the true state and condition of our jails and detention cells” and that “to claim that there is a violation of the Constitutional proscription against jails under sub-human condition is to even understate the obvious.”

“Kung ipinagyayabang ni Duterte at ng mga alipores at panatiko nya ang diumano’y ‘drug war,’ bakit halatang-halata ang kapalpakan at kahungkagan ng kampanya nila?” she asked.

“Namamayagpag pa rin ang mga sindikato at mga protektor nila. Pawang mahihirap ang tinatamaan. At ang mga kulungan ay lubhang siksikan. No. 1 in the entire world for over congestion. Terrible!,” she added.

In January 2018, De Lima filed her Senate Resolution No. 590 which calls for a Senate probe into the status of various construction projects to address the worsening detention facilities under the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

In July 2018, she also filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1879 which proposed for the integration of all jails and prisons under one central authority, the expansion and regionalization of facilities, and enhanced professionalization of custodial personnel.

In SB No. 2130 which she filed in December 2018, she also pushed for the promotion and protection of the fundamental rights and legitimate interests of all persons deprived of liberty, and the adoption of restorative justice in our penal system De Lima, who remains detained on trumped-up drug charges, is remembered to have steered the passage into law of the modernization of the Bureau of Corrections in 2013 as then justice secretary under the Aquino administration.

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