MANILA - Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago is irked by reports that some high-profile inmates in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) enjoy luxurious accommodations inside their cells.
"These prisoners are supposed to be experiencing punishment for their crimes, not taking a vacation. They are making a mockery out of the justice system by turning our jails into their own private resorts," Santiago said in a statement on Saturday.
She cited news reports of rich inmates staying in air-conditioned rooms, enjoying illegal drugs and alcohol, and even taking in sex workers.
She said some VIP inmates also reportedly drive around in golf carts, electric motorcycles and tricycles.
It was also reported that the NBP's maximum security compound has its own dress shops, wet and dry markets, fruit stands, as well as a jazz bar, plaza, and tennis court, she said.
"How can there be justice in our correctional system when we have a double standard between poor and rich inmates?"
With these reports, Santiago has filed Senate Resolution No. 525, calling for a Senate investigation on the anomalous situation in the NBP.
She also filed Senate Bill No. 1759 or the "No Frills Prison Bill" to eliminate luxurious prison conditions by mandating average standard living conditions and opportunities for every prisoner.
"If this can happen in a maximum security compound, who knows what else happens in other jails?" she said.
The senator's proposed law prohibits access by all prisoners to certain luxuries such as TV-viewing inside cells, cellphones, and computers. It also imposes additional restrictions for prisoners serving a sentence for violent crimes.
"Under the equal protection clause of the Constitution, all persons similarly situated should receive similar treatment. It does not matter whether you're a Johnny caught picking pockets or a Johnny charged with plunder. All detainees and prisoners, whether common criminals or senators, should have the same accommodations," Santiago said.