Solons find kubols, massage parlor in Bilibid
MANILA - The country's biggest penitentiary - the National Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa - continues to suffer from congestion, illegal drugs, prostitution among other problems due to the failure of government to implement the Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013.
This was revealed during an on-site hearing of the House Committee on Justice in Bilibid Thursday.
Justice Committee Chairman Niel Tupas Jr. led members of the committee, which exercises oversight functions over the implementation of the law, in an ocular inspection of the prison facility.
Tupas noted that because of the congestion, there is already a thriving community and economy inside the NBP where inmates are left to police themselves, put up their own sari-sari stores and even a massage parlor.
Rodolfo Diamante, a representative of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, said part of the problem of congestion is the very sparing grant of executive clemency.
Since President Aquino took office, only eight prisoners have been given pardon, causing a backlog. This is in contrast to previous administrations when pardons and executive clemencies were granted with regularity depending on occasions like Independence Day.
Members of the media were not allowed to join the committee inside the maximum security compound for security reasons.
Tupas, however, reported to media afterwards that because of congested facilities, the old system of "kubol" or make shift houses, continues to persist.
The congressman said he was saddened by what he saw inside the penitentiary.
He said the same committee visited Bilibid nearly two years ago and found the kubol system already in place.
"Decent facilities ang nakalagay sa batas. Nakalagay uniform and standard facilities. Di natin nakita yun. Nakakalungkot talaga. Nag provide inmates, sila ng kubol kubol doon. Last hearing, one and a half years ago, we were here and request ng committee dismantle kubols. Nagkakaroon tayo ng problem - what will be alternative? That's why naantala yun. Di totally, yung di maganda tignan nadismantle but what will be alternative?"
Tupas said some of the kubols even have a 2nd floor. The kubols were constructed by the inmates themselves.
"Pagpasok mo dun, may barangay na eh. Barangay BCJ. It's a community talaga. Nakita namin may barangay hall pa. Talaga, it's really a barangay. It's a town. They police themselves. Barangay GI. Yung may gulo na maliliit, they resolve themselves. Tapos nakikita natin may kubol, may second floor pa. Walang standard eh. May nagtitinda vegetable stores, tapos nire-rent nila. Kubol na tinutulugan 13 na pangkat yun. What we see is minimal supervision by [Bureau of Corrections]," he said
Tupas told the committee: "According to the law, we have 5 years to implement it. We can implement it, phase by phase. Salient features are very basic: upgrade salaries of members. Gusto po namin tulungan 2,300 employess ng BuCor. Kailangan professionalize natin. We can only professionalize employees kung standardize salary grade nila comparable to Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, masyado mababa. Also to give them benefits comparable to benefits being received by [Philippine National Police] and BJMP. We want that to happen within 5 years as mandated by law or earlier."
BuCor Director Franklin Jesus Bucayu reported they have a total of 23,000 inmates for NBP, with the maximum security compound housing 13,000.
In all 7 colonies of the NBP system, there are 40,800 inmates.
The NBP in Muntinlupa was built for an 8,900-inmate capacity only.
The maximum security compound was built for 4,000-5,000 inmates only.
Tupas also noted that the in-house medical facility is also congested.
He said he wants to find out what happened to some P50 million allotted sometime between 2002-2009 for the construction of the NBP hospital.
DRUGS, PROSTITUTION, ON THE JOB
Aside from the congestion, the issue of illegal drugs and prostitution continues to persist.
NBP officials admitted they don't have enough personnel to supervise the inmates.
Tupas said the environment inside the prison is "conducive" for the illegal drug trade. "Bagay na bagay sa illegal drugs trade," he said.
It was also revealed during the hearing that illegal drugs are smuggled inside through the private parts of visitors.
Other illegal activities inside the NBP were also discussed during the hearing including the alleged release of inmates to commit crimes before going back inside.
"Sometimes, ginagamit pa sa krimen. Sa loob may sindikato. We received reliable information ginagamit sa loob, pinapalabas then babalik sa loob," Tupas said.
Strictly speaking, only legal wives of inmates are allowed but prostitution persists in the prison facility.
Bucayu said one step they took is to make sure volunteer groups who visit are accredited.
IRR OF BUCOR ACT
The problem of congestion was traced to the non-implementation of the Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013. This was in turn traced to the failure of the budget department to make its comments on a draft implementing rules and regulations for the law.
Tupas noted that the IRR should have been issued within 90 days of the effectivity of the Act last year. Bucayu said the IRR is pending at the Department of Justice.
DOJ Undersecretary Francisco Baraan said that in crafting the IRR, the justice department gets comments from different departments and agencies such as Department of Budget and Management, Civil Service Commission and the Department of Finance.
All the agencies concerned have submitted comments except DBM.
DBM Assistant Director Evelyn Peralta said the budget department has already prepared a draft comment but it is still being reviewed.
Baraan said some P437 million was earmarked for the initial implementation of the BuCor Act but the DBM struck it out of next year's budget, which is pending in Congress.
Rep. Kit Belmonte said this is not the first time the delays in the IRR prevented the implementation of a law.
"Narinig ko na ito somewhere else. Pinatulog IRR. Tapos na budget season, buti na lang di pa tapos. Pwede pa mahabol," he said.
The committee asked the DBM to submit its comment on the IRR to the committee in 7 days.
Bucayu was also asked about the modernization of the NBP, which involves its transfer from Muntinlupa to Laur, Nueva Ecija in 5-7 years.
The program covers the transfer to some 500 hectares in the province. It has a project cost of over P50.2 billion and is envisioned to house 26,000 inmates.
Bucayu said local officials already gave their clearances for the construction of the facility. It was approved by the NEDA board just last week with construction expected to start next year.
Bucayu explained to lawmakers that the number of inmates is expected to stabilize with the implementation of the revised good conduct time allowance that allow well behaved inmates to be freed earlier than their terms.
However, it was revealed during the hearing that this law is also suffering a delay in its implementation because the DOJ believes this new law must be implemented prospectively.
Public Attorney's Office chief Persida Acosta said at least four top officials are needed to sign off on the IRR: the secretaries of the finance and justice departments and the chiefs of the DBM and CSC.
She also said the good conduct time allowance also has legal issues.
"GCTA kasi application naging prospective. Ma-obliterate recognition ng dating na earn. Naging prospective application kahit naka-earn ng 10-15 years ng GCTA, wala na yun kaya bumagal paglalabas ng preso...Mabagal rin po ang clemency, dumadalang..." she said.
Baraan explained the debate on the GCTA is only if it will be prospective or retroactive.
"Kasi po pag ginawang retroactive, dapat may bagong standards para iserve kung inmate...Ginawa po namin, we made clear because may gagawing bagong standards. Prospective there's no way by which we can go back int the past at tingnan old behavior ng inmate though yung earned good conduct andun pa rin based on old law, not new law," he said.
Tupas maintained that when the law is silent, the general rule should prevail, that is that laws that favor the inmate should be implemented retroactively.
"Yung IRR should not go beyond the law merely to implement the law. May mga sa batas na dito pwede baguhin. Pag silent batas on retroactive or prospective application, mag-apply general law na if favorable to accused its retroactive. Pag ginagawa mo sa IRR gagawin mo prospective you're going beyond spirit or letter of law," he said.
The congressman told the officials present to hasten the implementations of the law to address these problems.
He said that until the problem of congestion is solved, they cannot do away with the kubol system. In the meantime, he wants guidelines for the kubols in place.
The gangs inside Bilibid have been reorganized into barangays with Barangay Sputnik as the largest.
Tupas said he respects the prerogative of the president to issue pardons and clemencies but concedes that in the meantime the problem of congestion will persist.