No budget to build new prisons, only additional beds for prisoners
MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) failed to get an additional P5 billion budget to build 6 regional penal facilities, and will have to settle for now for an increased bed capacity in its existing prisons.
BuCor Chief General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa tried on Wednesday, October 3, to secure an “insertion” of P5 billion for their dreamed 6 prison facilities.
“But nung lumabas sa GAA your honor, good for one lang, gusto naming makumpleto ng anim, ito ang bulk ng insertion na gusto namin,” Dela Rosa told Senate Finance Committee Chairman Senator Loren Legarda on Wednesday during the budget hearing of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
(But when the General Appropriations Act came out, it was only good for one faciilty, and we really want to complete these 6, thats the bulk of the insertion that we want.)
BuCor is an attached agency to the DOJ and accounts for P2.9 billion in the total P21.3 billion proposed budget for 2019 of the entire DOJ.
It is a 7.86% increase from BuCor’s P2.7 budget in 2018, but a far cry from the P9.2 billion that the BuCor initially requested.
“We increased (your budget) by P300 million this year, capital outlay, for additional bed capacity to make it more humane so that our prisoners will live in humane conditions, I hope you know your budget, I hope you’re spending it and I hope it’s being implemented,” Legarda told Dela Rosa.
No more mega prison
BuCor supervises the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City and 6 other regional prisons. As of latest data, the 7 penal colonies house around 41,000 inmates, 26,000 of which are in Bilibid. The Bilibid has a maximum capacity of only 8,508.
Dela Rosa would have wanted a mega prison, the P150 billion ambitious project of President Rodrigo Duterte in the early days of his term, but the former police chief was not optimistic that the project would still push through.
“That move was scrapped by then Secretary (Vitaliano) Aguirre because of number one, cost; number two, it runs counter to our plan of regionalization. Because the family of the inmates will be helping us in the rehabilitation of the inmates, so their visitation will be more accessible if the inmates are imprisoned near their families,” Dela Rosa.
Dela Rosa said that he would also prefer to build an additional facility exclusive to drug convicts, in order to isolate them and contain the problem of continued drug trade inside prisons. (READ: Inside Bilibid: Resurgence, resignation, 'recanting')
Senator Miguel Zubiri proposed building an Alcatraz-like facility preferably in a remote island to cut off phone signal.
Legarda said the committee notes Dela Rosa’s concerns, and joked that the general would have more say in the budget if he is elected a senator.
“Maybe by next year when our terms have expired by July 1, 2019, it will be Senator Bato who will be sitting here and interpellating Secretary Guevarra on his budget,” said Legarda. – Rappler.com
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