SC asked to allow plea bargain for 80,000 drug users

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 14 2017 08:52 AM | Updated as of Mar 14 2017 08:53 AM

Inmates sleep on the steps of a ladder inside the Quezon City jail at night in Manila in this picture taken on July 21, 2016. Noel Celis, AFP

MANILA - The Public Attorney's Office said Tuesday it asked the Supreme Court to allow 80,000 "small-time" drug suspects to strike plea bargains to speed up the disposition of their cases.

Suspects caught with less than a gram of drugs are sometimes jailed for as long as 30 years while their cases drag in court, denying them access to rehabilitation, PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said.

A plea bargain allows an accused to negotiate for lesser penalties by pleading guilty to an offense.

"Wala po silang pag-asang magbago kung 20 taon lang doon hanggang mapuno ang 30 taon, e sila-sila nagpapatayan din sa loob," Acosta said in a phone interview with radio DZMM.

(They wouldn't have a hope for changing if they are jailed 20 to 30 years, they would just kill each other inside prison.)

Acosta said the faster resolution of the cases would help ease overcrowding in jails, which could cost the government an additional P1.4 billion.

Crowded conditions also expose detainees to disease such as AIDS, she said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a bloody war on drugs that has seen thousands of suspected criminals dead or jailed, aggravating the sorry state of the country's penal system, which was ranked as the third most congested in the world even before his election.

Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno had said the government would allocate funds to build new jails, with 80 percent of new detainees accused of drug-related crimes resulting from Duterte's crackdown. -- With Agence France Presse