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Local gov’ts need help with crowded prisons

Updated

E CARTOON FEB 17, 2017

Three  weeks after  President  Duterte  assumed office in June, 2016, the Philippine National Police (PNP)  reported that 8,110 drug users and pushers had  been arrested in the period  May 10-July 10, while 35,276 had surrendered to the police. This was on top of thousands killed in police operations.

By September, 2016, 26,000 had been arrested, while 730,000 had surrendered.   In towns and cities all over the country today, many prisons  are  filled with arrested and surrendered drug  addicts. Even without  the drug cases,  our prisons were already  crowded  beyond  their  capacities.

Prison  space is only part of the problem. One provincial governor said the police and judicial systems are heavily overworked. There are not enough prosecutors and judges to attend to the hundreds of  new  cases.

After all the paper work, the local governments  have to provide for the prisoners. Most  towns have  no ready funds for the food  for  thousands of  new prisoners. And what of the need to rehabilitate the drug addicts? That is an additional expense that is not provided  for in their budgets.

After the all-out drive against the drug menace, the Duterte administration is now moving on to other concerns of the nation. The President has now ordered a campaign against illegal gambling.

 In the recently approved 2017 National  Budget, a total of P850 billion has been set aside for infrastructures to  be carried  out by the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Transportation. This  is the core of an employment program aimed at reducing mass poverty in the country.  There are other billions for agricultural development, another pillar of the anti-poverty program.

All these undertakings are welcome for they herald a new era of inclusive economic development  for the nation. Government spending  should  stimulate the private sector  to push its own growth  programs, so that at the end of this year, we should have an even bigger Gross Development Program (GDP) growth than the 7.1 we had at the end of 2016.

But in all this push for growth and development, let us not forget the thousands of people affected by the administration’s first program of action, the drug addicts who surrendered  to the authorities  and now need help. Many of them are  now detained in local prisons in the care of local governments  who need help with their budget  problems. In the long run, they will also be needing help  for their rehabilitation.

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