CBCP exec laments lack of priority given to prison reform

CBCP exec laments lack of priority given to prison reform

Detainees at Manila City Jail. FILE PHOTO

The country’s already-strained penal system could get even worse should the government continue putting little attention in addressing the problem, an official of the Catholic Church’s prison ministry said.

Mr. Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the CBCP Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, lamented the lack of priority and the weak implementation of the law to improve penal facilities.

“I do not believe that the problem is funding. There are funds. They just have the wrong priorities,” Diamante said at media forum Roundtable at Lido in Quezon City May 10.

“For example, they spend billions of pesos for entertaining [visiting] heads of states because that is the priority. In other words, there must be a change in the perspective of the leaders,” he said.

Bureau of Correction director for reformation Martin Perfecto said that the BuCor has long been deficient which led to bigger problems like prison congestion and inadequate infrastructure and manpower.

The BuCor owns a large parcel of land but “one big irony”, he said, is that prison congestion remains one of its major problems.

“So obviously the issue is the infrastructure,” said Perfecto.

“The ratios are also really wild. When it comes to the custodial guards, the ratio is one is to 243 (inmates) while in the reformation, that is like one is to 92,” he added.

Citing a report from the National Police Commission, Diamante said that the improvement of jail facilities have long been funded.

He also claimed politics has prevented the authorities from implementing the BuCor modernization law.

“We have a problem with the laws when it comes to drugs, our government detains suspects and jails them without classifying whether they really should be detained,” Diamante said.

“We have been talking about alternatives to imprisonment since the year 2000 and yet it’s falling on deaf ear,” he stressed.

He also said that the lack of holding cells for suspects waiting to be processed has resulted to the existence of “secret jails” like what was allegedly found in a Tondo police station recently.

Diamante said that such secret detention facility has long been an issue .

“Since 1976, police stations do not really have lock-up jails. And now, due to the sluggish justice system, those imprisoned there (holding units) become sources of corruption,” he said. Niceforo Vince A. Balbedina III, CSJL intern/CBCPNews