Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a measure 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.
Inspired by the legacy and teachings of the late South African leader Nelson Mandela on the occasion of his 100th birth anniversary, De Lima filed Senate Bill No. 1879 which seeks to institute a unified corrections and jail management system in the country.
“On the 510th day of my unjust detention as a prisoner of conscience of the Duterte administration, during the Nelson Mandela Day and Centenary, I am filing this bill to help reform the corrections and jail management system in the Philippines,” she said.
Last July 18, the world celebrated the Mandela Day and his 100th birth anniversary. He is best remembered as the head of the anti-apartheid movement, the first President of a free South Africa, and one of the world’s greatest moral and political leaders.
De Lima pointed out that the present conditions of the country’s jails and prisons violate not only the 1987 Constitution but also the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the “Nelson Mandela Rules.”
According to her, the perennial congestion problem of the country’s prisons and jails have resulted to other related problems, such as jail disturbances, escapes, substandard living and working conditions, poor sanitation and other infectious diseases.
“Severe congestion is also a root cause of prison-based criminality,” she said, as she cited other problems such as maltreatment of inmates, official misconduct, cruelty and plain incompetence of some personnel manning jail and correctional facilities.
The former justice secretary also explained that the highly fragmented corrections and jail management system has also resulted in the lack of integrative and uniform development programs on correctional services and jail management.
“This measure will help address the fragmented set-up of the Philippine corrections and jail system, the overcrowding of our prisons and jails, the lack of uniformity of standards in the treatment of all persons deprived of liberty, and the need to further capacitate our personnel,” she added.
At present, the prisons and penal farms are under the Bureau of Corrections – Department of Justice (BuCor-DOJ), while the provincial jails are under the provincial governments and the district, city and municipal jails under the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (BJMP-DILG).
“The management of these various facilities, the custody and reformation of the prisoners and detainees in these places, and the supervision of personnel manning the facilities and handling the inmates all follow disparate sets of laws, rules and regulations,” De Lima pointed out.
“This is not conducive to efficiency, effective management and an integrative and uniform development of programs on correctional services and jail management,” she added in her bill’s explanatory note.
Under SB 1879, a National Commission on Corrections and Jail Management (NCCJM) shall be created to carry out a system integrating the correctional and jail services provided by BuCor-DOJ, BJMP-DILG, and the provincial governments.
Once approved into law, the BuCor under DOJ and BJMP under DILG shall be effectively abolished, along with the correctional and jail services being administered and maintained by the respective provincial governments.
“The idea of adopting the ‘Nelson Mandela Rules’ into law in the Philippines to be made applicable to all persons deprived of liberty, coupled with the desire to integrate, modernize and further professionalize the management of all prisons and jails in our country, has motivated me to come up with a bill pushing for a unified corrections and jail management system in the Philippines,” De Lima said.
“We are advocating for the integration of all jails and prisons under one central authority, the expansion and regionalization of facilities, the enhanced professionalization of government personnel, and, most importantly, the promotion and protection of the fundamental rights and legitimate interests of all persons deprived of liberty,” she added.