THE Philippine Revised Penal Code embarks on jail terms for those who have messed up, as an approach designed primarily to reform people found guilty by any court of law for commission of criminal acts. As to how the penal system in the Philippines could reform people behind bars is another question.
The government figure on congestion of jail facilities under the auspices of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) says it all. Deplorable is an understatement to describe the inhuman condition of thousands of inmates billeted at the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.
And to think, thousands are cramming up for space and services in a facility where they are supposed to undergo reformatory interventions as part of the process to prepare their reintegration to the society where they once were part of.
For one, BuCor is under the Department of Justice. As such, it is a must for the DOJ to come up with a roadmap for the decongestion of jails hosting human beings – and not rodents, as the government treats them.
The 344-percent congestion rate at the NBP is no laughing matter. Thousands are at risk at a time when most are getting paranoid over the possibility of contracting the highly infectious and deadly virus from Wuhan, China.
Interestingly, the situation in the lakeshore municipality of Binangonan, Rizal is the exact opposite of what’s been going on at the NBP.
The local government has provided a place, spacious enough to accommodate their detainees. More than the space, the Binangonan local government unit has been pooling resources from both government and non-government organizations (NGO) for the provision of the needs of what the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) would rather refer to as “Persons Deprived of Liberty.”
Speaking of jail, I recall one distinct BJMP official who has proven to be more of an elder sister than a warden to the inmates of jail facilities where she has been.
Her name is Supt. Mirasol Vocalan Vitor. She’s been to the Manila City Jail, the Pasig City Jail and the Antipolo City Jail where I had a chance of talking to inmates sometime in 2017. Asked how they feel about being behind bars, the detainees said that life has been just like a productive vacation, where they were given the chance to study, earn and eat what they aptly described as “food for human beings.”
Aside from good food (which comes with fruits), inmates also are given the chance to study under the alternative learning system (ALS), earn through jail-based livelihood programs, reformatory intervention through the Therapeutic Community and Modality Program (TCMP), sports and leisure, religion, etc.
Hygiene supplies for the inmates also come in steadily from NGOs and personal friends tapped by no less than Vitor. The last thing I heard of her was that she’s been assigned at the Quezon City Jail.
More than these freebies, the detainees seemed most appreciative of their warden’s effort to make sure that their cases in court don’t pile up dust. The BJMP calls it paralegal assistance. Under this mechanism, the BJMP personnel are persistently pressing for court hearings and in effect hasten court resolutions – “laya” or “layo,” as what they would want to call it.
Whichever way, the inmates feel secure that they would not rot in jail just because the courts are too slow in resolving cases filed for their jurisprudence.