Sandiganbayan to Gigi: Custodial center not a jail

By Michael Punongbayan, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 09 2014 02:47 AM | Updated as of Jul 09 2014 10:47 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Jessica Lucila "Gigi" Reyes may not be able to get her wish to be detained at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

The Sandiganbayan made clear yesterday that the Custodial Center of the Philippine National Police (PNP) at Camp Crame is not a jail where persons facing trial are detained.

Magistrates of the anti-graft court’s Third Division led by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, with Associate Justices Samuel Martires and Alex Quiroz, took turns yesterday in lecturing the prosecutors, defense counsels, members of media and other court observers on the difference between a jail facility and a custodial center.

During a hearing on the motion filed by Reyes asking for her transfer to Camp Crame, prosecutors led by Jennifer Agustin-Se opposed the idea of moving her from the basement detention cell of the Sandiganbayan to the PNP custodial center instead of the Quezon City Jail where the anti-graft court has already ordered her committed.

Reyes wants to be transferred to the Custodial Center where Senators Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada are detained. Both senators are also facing separate cases of plunder and graft.

Government lawyers said the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) could accommodate Reyes as an inmate even after jail officials said they have an overpopulated female dormitory, apart from her being a high-risk and high profile inmate.

The lecturing started when Se failed to satisfy the magistrates on the legal grounds by which she is basing her opposition to the motion, apart from the equal protection clause which states that all persons should be treated equally.

“You mean you came to court unprepared?” Martires asked before calling Quezon City Jail female dormitory warden, Chief Inspector Elena Rocamora, to enlighten the Sandiganbayan.

Rocamora told the anti-graft court of the sorry state of the detention facility for women she heads with 503 inmates in two 131.4-square meter dormitories intended only for 56 persons.

Martires then stated that such conditions violate the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, which states that a prisoner must have at least 4.07 square meters of space in order to be treated with dignity though his or her liberty is impaired.

Rocamora was then asked by Quiroz about the difference between a BJMP jail and the PNP custodial center. She said the custodial center is for persons under investigation while the BJMP is a detention facility for persons undergoing trial.

Considering the law states that an arrested person should be committed to the nearest jail, Tang asked the BJMP official if she knows of any other jail facility under the BJMP that can take in Reyes.

Rocamora enumerated a number of female detention areas like the Taguig City female dormitory and the special intensive care area 2, both inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, but later admitted the jails may also be congested as in almost all jails in the country.

Hearing that, Martires said “it’s about time for government to study this because prisoners have a right to a decent life,” adding that there is no unified management of the country’s penitentiaries and jails.– Delon Porcalla, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Reinir Padua, Jose Rodel Clapano