MANILA - The Commission on Audit flagged the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) for the worsening condition inside jails across the country.
In its 2017 report, COA said occupancy rate in prison facilities in the country have reached 612%, with a total jail population of 146,302 inmates, far too high for the 20,653 capacity.
“The jail populations for the rear recorded an increase in various months due to the number of drug-related cases in the country as well as the court’s slow action or inaction on the pending cases,” COA said.
Region 4-A (Calabarzon) has the most overcrowded jails in the country, followed by Region 3 (Central Luzon) and Region 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula).
This kind of congrestion violates the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the BJMP Manual on Habitat, Water, Sanitation and Kitchen in Jails, the government agency stressed.
COA also found out that there is an increase in the inmates catching illnesses in the past 3 years, with the government recording 57,269 cases of upper respiratory tract infection in 2017, around 15,000 more than what was recorded in 2016.
The report also noted an increasing number of inmates having hypertension and abscess in the past 3 years.
“Congestion in jails lead not only to health and sanitation problems but also to increased gang affiliation of inmates. To sustain survival, inmates hold on to gangs or 'pangkat' where they find protection, network of social support and most importantly, access to material benefits,” COA said.
COA noted that the regional offices of the BJMP are already taking steps to address the conditions in jails, such as strengthening of para-legal programs to address congestion problems. Additional jails are also being built across the country, it added.
BJMP Director for Operations J/Supt. Noel Pimentel Montalvo earlier confirmed Philippine jails, many of which house more than 5 times their capacity, do not meet United Nations standards.
Each jail inmate should be given at least 4.7 square meters of space, according to the UN.
Under this standard, only 21,342 inmates could be accommodated in Philippine jails, which have a total floor space of 100,315 sqm, he said.
An earlier report said congestion in jails worsened amid President Rodrigo Duterte's intensified campaign against crime, particularly illegal drugs.
Duterte in 2017 expressed satisfaction with the condition of jails run by BJMP despite widespread congestion.
He said budget constraints then bar the improvement of jails. He instead promised inmates that he would place a television in each cell to improve their living conditions.
The BJMP is in charge of all city, district and municipal jails. It handles detainees "accused before a court who are temporarily confined in such jails while undergoing investigation, waiting final judgement and those who are serving sentence promulgated by the court 3 years and below."