Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has welcomed the Quezon City (QC) Council’s approval of an ordinance that could ease overcrowding in the detention cells of police stations by fining violators for minor offenses instead of detaining them outright.
De Lima, who has been pushing for prison reforms, said the passage of the ordinance in Quezon City is laudable because it will address the worsening subhuman conditions and congestion inside the country’s jails and penitentiaries.
“It is no secret that jail congestion is a perennial problem in our jails and prisons all over the country,” she said.
“I commend the QC local government and its officials for coming up with this ingenious and practical solution that may help in easing the overcrowding of the city jail, and in effect de-clogging of court dockets, as well,” she added.
A report of the QC Police Department shows a record of an overwhelming total number of 235,427 ordinance violators. Of this total, 205,339 were warned, 2,044 were fined and 28,044 were charged.
With Ordinance No. SP-2752 signed by QC Mayor Herbert Bautista last Oct. 4, she noted that in lieu of a jail term or detention, ordinance violators will get the chance to close their case by paying the corresponding fine or rendering equivalent community service, if he/she is insolvent.
Under the newly-approved ordinance, a case will only be filed against a violator when the person fails to pay the fine within the five days of issuance of the Ordinance Violation Receipt (OVR) or when the individual contests his/her apprehension.
The said violations include smoking in public places, drinking of liquor in public places and being half-naked in public places, among others.
Based on their respective official figures, the Bureau of Corrections registered an overall congestion rate of 130 percent across all eight penitentiaries, prison and penal farms, while the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology has an alarming congestion rate of 582.37 percent nationwide.
“This condition of our jails and prisons definitely violates our Constitution’s prohibition against the ‘use of substandard or inadequate penal facilities under subhuman conditions,’ and runs afoul of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners,” she lamented.
With the impending implementation of the city ordinance on Nov. 16, De Lima urged other LGUs to follow the move of the QC government and “do their share in improving the system that would ameliorate the deplorable conditions of our inmates.”
Last July, De Lima filed Senate Bill No. 1879 on unified corrections and jail management system, which seeks to integrate jails and prisons under one central authority and address the problem of highly fragmented corrections and jail management system in our jails and prisons. The Senator from Bicol also intends to file a parallel bill that will propose a policy of decongesting and improving the country’s prisons and detention facilities, while introducing an improved system of custody and rehabilitation of the prisoners.