MANILA - Tens of thousands of inmates in jails across the country may be forced to cut their meals with their food budget seen to run out by October due to a surge in detainees locked up for drug offenses, a lawmaker said Tuesday.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto has called on government to augment the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology's (BJMP) food budget for detainees saying those held in its 446 facilities may face "a forced last quarter diet" due to budget constraints.
Recto explained that the P2.32-billion BJMP food allowance for the year is designed only for 106,289 inmates, but the number of detainees had soared to 142,282 by the end of June and is expected to breach the 150,000 mark by the end of September.
“We are supposed to run humane jails, not hunger camps,” Recto said in a statement.
An inmate has a daily food budget of P60 divided into 3 meals.
“Ito ay pagkakasyahin sa tatlong kainan. Ang resulta ay super preso tipid meals,” Recto said.
Citing BJMP data, Recto said 2 in 3 inmates, or a total of 97,321, are jailed for drug-related offenses as of June 30.
Most of the detainees are male (83,281), and are between ages 22 and 39 (56,469), he said.
“That’s more than six Araneta Coliseums-full of mostly alleged shabu sellers or users,” he said.
Since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office last year, government has enforced an intensified campaign against drug users and peddlers.
Though the campaign has resulted in a drop in drug and criminal activities, it has led to a surge in the number of arrested drug violators, further crowding the country's cramped detention facilities.
The BJMP, according to Recto, is currently reporting a 600 percent average congestion rate.
“Sa report ng BJMP, mayroong mga jails na 3,590 percent, 2,603 percent, 2,494 percent congestion rate. Ibig sabihin, imbis na apat na preso lang ang kasya, 159 ang patayong natutulog sa 20 square meters na selda, tulad doon sa isang jail,” Recto said.
The increase in the number of inmates is also putting a strain on state resources as taxpayers spend P81,732 per year to provide for and guard one BJMP inmate, Recto said.
He said the BJMP inmate population has doubled since 2013, as he stressed that the agency is just one of 3 holding prisoners.
The BJMP oversees detainees facing trial. The Bureau of Corrections meanwhile guards 41,258 sentenced convicts in 8 penitentiaries, while the Philippine National Police runs 458 town jails in addition to precinct-level “holding cells.”