Too old for jail? At least 4,500 senior citizens incarcerated in PH

Rambo Talabong

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Too old for jail? At least 4,500 senior citizens incarcerated in PH

LeAnne Jazul

Thousands of senior citizens are incarcerated in the Philippines, according to data from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and Bureau of Corrections

MANILA, Philippines – Old age does not give anyone an instant pass to skip detention and jail time.

In the Philippines, some 4,500 senior citizens, or persons at least 60 years old, remain detained for alleged and already proven crimes, data from holding institutions obtained by Rappler show.

According to data from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), the agency which manages the country’s jails for detainees waiting for the verdict on criminal cases against them, at least 3,043 persons of age 60 and above are detained as of November 2018.

The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), the agency which keeps convicts with a prison sentence of at least 3 years, counted 1,483 senior citizen convicts kept in the New Bilibid Prison as of May 2018.

Convicted to 7 counts of graft with the prescribed prison sentence of at least 6 years and a month by the Sandiganbayan, former first lady Imelda Marcos could land in the custody of the BuCor.

Age does not mean immunity: While Article 13 of the Revised Penal Code said that age could be a mitigating circumstance in criminal liability, it does not say that age could exempt anyone from detention and prison time.

According to the code, jail penalty and punishment may be suspended by the court if “the offender is under 18 year of age or over 70 years.”

A 2010 Supreme Court ruling has clarified, however, that this rule could not be used by convicted criminals who were below the age of 70 when they committed the misdeed. (READ: 90-year-old Enrile may still spend time in jail)

“The mitigating circumstance of old age under Article 13 (2) of the Revised Penal Code applied only when the offender was over 70 years at the time of the commission of the offense,” the Supreme Court said in Jose Reyes vs People of the Philippines.

Special treatment inside? The BJMP, according to its spokesman Chief Inspector Xavier Solda, does not have any special facilities or policies that mandate for the special treatment of senior citizens inside the country’s jail institutions.

Walang special facility. Sumusunod lang naman kami sa utos ng korte (There is no special facility. We just follow the order of the court),” Solda told Rappler in a phone interview on Tuesday, November 13.

A former jail officer himself, Solda said that the special treatment comes naturally from jail staff and detainees. It’s simply because of “Filipino culture”, he said.

“I think it’s more shown in being respectful to the detained elderly. When they arrive, detainees accommodate to their needs,” Solda said in a mix of English and Filipino. (READ: No VIP treatment for Palparan in Bilibid)

He added, “As much as we want to have a separate facility, we could not because it is already cramped. But as far as the treatment is concerned, we are very respectful.” –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.