First 100 days: Remulla to focus on Sablayan prison, jail decongestion

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 24 2022 10:50 PM

MANILA — In his first 100 days in office, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla wants to focus on laying the groundwork for the construction of a prison building in Occidental Mindoro and decongesting jails, among other programs.

Remulla bared his priorities at a Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum on Wednesday.

“Isang target kasi, I have been working with DPWH to, kung pwede if we could have a design ready for the prison in Sablayan and a schedule of activities so we can build the maximum security prison in Sablayan,” he told reporters. 

“I want that sana kung matatapos namin ang sched na yan within the first 100 days. I would be very happy with that,” he said.

The Sablayan penal colony in Occidental Mindoro has 10,000 hectares, making it the “most logical place” for the construction of a maximum security prison, Remulla explained.

The move is part of efforts to address congestion at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa, which only covers 244 hectares with an ideal capacity of 6,435.

Last year, then-Senator Franklin Drilon flagged a 344 percent congestion rate with 28,545 prisoners serving the sentences.

Drilon had prodded then-Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to push through with the transfer of the NBP to an area outside Metro Manila.

The plan did not push through under the previous administration.

Remulla is trying to make it happen under the new administration.

He said he has proposed P2.5 billion for the construction of a prison building in Sablayan, classified under the public buildings portion of the national budget for 2023.

What will then become of the current NBP site in Muntinlupa?

Remulla said the area can be converted into a government center through a presidential proclamation. 

“Personally that’s my point of view, that gagawin siyang malaking park na pupuntahan ng mga tao, tapos government offices. Tama na yung mall and real estate. We have too much of that already,” he said.

This way, he added, the government will have presence in the south of Metro Manila, noting that most government offices are in the north of the metro.

For regional jails, Remulla is suggesting a lease-to-own partnership with the private sector or the LGU where jails could be built, leased to jail administrators, and turned over after 30 years.

“If we can build jails to specs as agreed upon, we can agree upon the rental every year, the capital outlay will not be very big. So isa yan sa mga concepts na pinag-uusapan,” he said.

“The LGU can put up a building under a PPP program or joint venture. They can amortize it and turn it over after so many years when the amortization is paid for the facility plus profit for the LGUs. Kasi negosyo ng LGU yan,” he added.

But these plans take longer than 100 days. 

To address jail congestion now, Remulla said the DOJ is launching a jail visit program with the Public Attorneys Office, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the Parole and Probation Administration.

“I’ve asked the BuCor to submit a few hundred carpeta, 300 to 500 carpetas a week para ma-process po, so we can go over the list of those who are deprived of liberty so we can decongest our jails, our correction system and of course our jail system,” he said.

The review of carpetas and the grant of good conduct time allowance (GCTA) because controversial during the previous administration when the implementation of a more liberal grant of GCTA almost led to the release of convicted murderer and rapist former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez.

Public backlash prevented his release and led to changes in the guidelines, disqualifying those convicted of heinous crimes from benefiting from more GCTA credits.

Sanchez eventually died at NBP in March last year.

“If we can already come up with the pardons of several people who can be pardoned, and if we can decongest the jails by 10% at least, that would be good for the first 100 days,” Remulla said.

Aside from jail decongestion, the justice chief also said he hopes to see a new Immigration law enacted.

The former lawmaker shared they, at the House of Representatives, have been trying to pass a new Immigration law for the past 15 years but never prospered.

A new bill has been refiled, he said. He suggested forming a technical working group to fine-tune the provisions of the proposed law.

Remulla also hopes that within his first 100 days in office, his nominees to key attached agencies of the DOJ will finally get their appointment papers.

He is eyeing fellow-UP College of Law alumnus Joel Viado to head the Immigration bureau and University of Perpetual Help graduate Atty. Gerry Sirios for the Land Registration Authority.

“I need these people to do my job,” he said.

Remulla said he has many other goals for the first 3 months of his term as Justice secretary. 

“The first 100 days are important because they’re symbolic but it doesn’t mean it is everything because everything is a work in progress,” he said.

“There are many things that have to be done and many things that will be left undone but we do not sleep on the job,” he continued.