PH jails too crowded, don't meet UN standards, says COA

Carolyn Bonquin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 04 2016 02:27 PM | Updated as of Aug 04 2016 06:01 PM

Inmates sleep on the ground of an open basketball court inside the Quezon City jail at night in Manila in this picture taken on July 19, 2016. There are 3,800 inmates at the jail, which was built six decades ago to house 800. Noel Celis, AFP

MANILA - The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology failed to conform to the occupancy rate set by the United Nations Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners due to unresolved overcrowding rates in its detention facilities, a Commission on Audit (COA) report says.

The audit report focused on the jails situated in Region 12.

By the end of 2015, a total of 4,510 detainees were cramped in 14 city, district and municipal jails in Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani Provinces.

This exceeded the total ideal capacity of 917 detainees by 3,593, or a total clogging average of 392%.

The UN standards states: a minimum of 4.7 square meters in the cell is recommended per detainee "whether he is alone… (or he) shares it with another person."

"All accommodation provided for the use of prisoners and in particular all sleeping accommodation shall meet all requirements of health, due regard being paid to climate condition and particularly to cubic content of air, minimum floor area space, lighting, heating and ventilation."

INCREASING DRUG-RELATED CRIMES

COA attributed the congestion to the high rate of illegal drug-related and heinous crimes awaiting verdict. The turtle-pace progress in the hearing of cases was also blamed.

A total of 2,852 or 63.22 % of the detainees in Region 12 face violations of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972 and Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, while the rest are jailed for heinous or grave offenses" not acted upon within the reglementary period."

"It could be gleaned from the schedule of jail population per year, that there are still cases way back 1996 that are not yet decided because of the court's slow or no action on the pending cases due to lack of judges, postponement of hearings and slow disposition of criminal cases. These cases carry the penalty of 'reclusion perpetua' or life imprisonment," COA states.

'CONSTRUCT MORE CELLS'

COA has recommended the construction of additional cells to help decongest jails.

The audit body also wants the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) process intensified and the law Release of Recognizance Act of 2012 given more emphasis "for (the prisoners') early release without necessarily completing their sentence which could significantly reduce jail population and congestion."

GCTA encourages an inmate to attend various activities such as livelihood training programs, Alternative Learning System (ALS), religious activities, to be more productive while serving and waiting for his sentence.

For every literacy skills and values development program participated, a prisoner is also given points which will be deducted from his jail time.

Meanwhile, the Recognizance Act enacted in 2013, provides an alternative to the poor or marginalized person who cannot afford to post bail. The law allows the release of an accused to the custody of a qualified member of the barangay, city or municipality who will have the burden of bringing him to court when required.

The BJMP Region 12 management told COA that additional cells are now being constructed in General Santos City Jail, Tacurong City District Jail and Alabel district Jail. They are also conducting seminars and trainings on GCTA and laws of recognizance. They also aim to release 1,300 inmates.