By Mario Casayuran
Detained Sen. Leila M. de Lima pressed the Senate leadership yesterday to direct its Senate justice and human rights committee chaired by Sen. Richard J. Gordon to finally start its public hearing on her resolution seeking an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the current bad state of Philippine jails and penitentiaries.
De Lima issued the call as she urged President Duterte and his allies in the Senate and the House of Representatives to set their priorities straight by addressing the perennial problems that have long been plaguing the country’s prison system.
She said President Duterte should seriously address the problems confronting the country’s detention facilities instead of focusing on earning “brownie points.”
“If he is really serious in addressing the issues of our prison system, Duterte should, at the very least, take note of and call on Senator Gordon… to finally act on the Resolutions I filed, and accordingly conduct investigations in aid of legislation to come up with a comprehensive solution on how to decongest and improve conditions in jails and detention facilities all over the country,” she said.
De Lima filed in August, 2016 Senate Resolution (PSR) No. 97 seeking a Senate inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the current state of jails and penitentiaries all over the country.
Months after, De Lima wrote to Gordon requesting him to give priority to PSR No. 97 she filed, but to no avail.
Last May, she also filed PSR No. 355 urging the Gordon committee to conduct an immediate investigation into the discovery of a “secret jail facility” at the Manila Police District Station 1, Tondo, Manila.
In 2015, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) alone accounted for 93,961 prisoners, which is 398 percent congestion rate in all the 461 jails in the country today, while the Bureau of Corrections (BOC) with 41,144 inmates in its seven prison and penal farms.
In 2016, the Philippines was ranked 12th in the world with a prison population of 142,168, based on the World Prison Brief of the London-based International Centre for Prison Studies.
As such, De Lima regarded as “publicity stunt” Duterte’s recent visit at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City where he reportedly promised inmates a television in each cell.
As the first political prisoner experiencing oppression under the Duterte administration, de Lima, said she now has greater understanding for addressing the problems of injustices in the country.
“I was imprisoned based on trumped-up charges, fabricated by Duterte and his cohorts. Despite their continuous political persecution, I will not be cowed. I will continue to have faith. I know that truth is on my side, and I am innocent,” she said.
De Lima, then the Department of Justice (DoJ) secretary during the Aquino administration, had steered the passage into law of the modernization of the BOC in 2013 as part of the then Aquino administration’s resolve to decongest and improve the facilities of the country’s jail system.
In view of then administration’s intensified drive against criminality, de Lima pointed out that the government should look at the pitiful state of the country’s jails and penitentiaries as an equally pressing issue that needs to be addressed.
De Lima, a known human rights defender, noted her fight is not hers alone.
In her message at the 30th celebration of the Prison Awareness Week, de Lima said Duterte should seriously address the problems confronting the country’s detention facilities instead of focusing on earning ‘’brownie points.’’
With the theme “Your Love is My Light and My Salvation,” the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)-Episcopal Commission heads the observance of the 30th celebration of the Prison Awareness week from Oct. 23-29.