Padilla eyes 'regional' Bilibids to address congestion in prisons

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 08 2022 07:46 PM

Members of the Philippine National Police K-9 team wait for go-signal to conduct clearing operations at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City on Nov. 10, 2020, after a riot broke out in the national penitentiary. ABS-CBN News/File
Members of the Philippine National Police K-9 team wait for go-signal to conduct clearing operations at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City on Nov. 10, 2020, after a riot broke out in the national penitentiary. ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — Sen. Robin Padilla has filed a bill for the "regionalization" of penal farms in the Philippines to "address the issue of congestion in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP)," the country's main penitentiary. 

Padilla served time in the NBP for several years due to illegal possession of firearms in the 1990s.

As senator, Padilla said he wanted "to focus more on the impact of far incarceration of persons serving final judgment from their families."

"Recognizing therefore the paramount role of the family in providing emotional, moral and psychosocial support to every person serving final judgment, this measure is being proposed to widen the opportunities of families and other support groups to pay a visit to their loved ones inside the penitentiaries," Padilla said.

Under Padilla's Senate Bill 235, penitentiary systems will be set up in at least 10 regions.

"Ultimately, this bill seeks to create additional regional penal institutions not only to address the severe congestion in the country's jails and prisons, but to also ensure the welfare of persons serving final judgment as they await their reintegration to society," he said. 

Padilla noted that there were only 7 penitentiary institutions nationwide, namely: 

• New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City
• Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City
• Iwahig Penal Colony in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan
• San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm in Zamboanga City
• Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm in Occidental Mindoro
• Leyte Regional Prison
• Davao Prison and Penal Farm 

Due to the limited number of penitentiary institutions nationwide, Padilla lamented that visits among families "become a mere privilege" due to the costs of transportation and accommodation.

As of December 2021, the NBP, which ideally should only have 6,435 PDLs (persons deprived of liberty), has 28,642 inmates, resulting in a 345-percent congestion rate, latest data from the Bureau of Corrections showed.

The bureau's 6 other facilities outside of Metro Manila have congestion rates ranging from 145 to 448 percent.

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