DOJ: Reforms, site transfer to stem prison criminality
MANILA, Philippines – Aware of looming "prison-based criminality" in the country's penitentiaries, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima signed on Friday, December 12, the IRR of Republic Act 10575 or the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Act of 2013.
The law seeks to modernize, professionalize and restructure BuCor by upgrading its facilities, increasing the number of its personnel, upgrading the level of qualifications of their personnel and standardizing their base pay, retirement and other benefits.
De Lima said criminality inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) would be stemmed "if the right facilities are set up and installed, and the right people – meaning those with the right motivation to run the facility – are there."
Among the reforms sought is the transfer of the NBP to Laur, Nueva Ecija. With an allocated budget pegged at P50 million ($1.12 million)*, the new site is expected to be ready 3 years after the early 2015 bidding.
As planned, the construction of the new prison facility will be carried out through a public-private partnership.
In June, Undersecretary Francisco "Toti" Baraan III told reporters the plan to relocate the NBP to a new site "has been in the works for the last two years." (READ: DOJ: NBP reforms sought, including site transfer)
The NBP is the country's main penitentiary, congested 3 times more than its ideal capacity and rife with reports of special treatment of high-profile inmates and drug-related activities operated by convicted dealers in cahoots with prison guards through the years.
Rehabilitation of inmates
De Lima said the subject law and its recently-signed IRR emphasize "the rehabilitative and reformative philosophy or restorative philosophy of the correctional system."
"We will also improve our existing prison and penal farms in Davao, Sablayan, Palawan, and then the others," she added.
The justice secretary explained that the rationale behind these facility upgrades involves the "accessibility" of inmates to their loved ones, adding that visitation helps in their rehabilitation.
"Studies show that if the inmates are regularly visited by their families and friends, makakatulong din sa reformative attitude nila kesa 'yung mga napabayaan na. Lalo silang nagiging hardened, nate-tempt gumawa ng mga hindi maganda while in prison," she explained.
(Studies show that if the inmates are regularly visited by their families and friends, it helps in reforming their attitude compared to those left alone. They all the more become hardened criminals, tempted to commit illegal acts in prison.)
Inmates will likewise be classified based on their cases and other psychological and personality-based assessments, De Lima said.
BuCor Director Franklin Jesus Bucayu said the eyed segregation will necessitate construction of small-scale facilities inside the penitentiary.
“This is necessary for our therapeutic and reform program for inmates. We have to remember that our penitentiary is a 4-walled community or town and not like the city jails,” he added.
De Lima likewise assured prison guards a 100% increase in their compensation – from salary grade 5 to salary grade 10 – to avoid being corrupted by big-time criminals locked up in prison.
This will make their salaries at par with jail wardens at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), which manages jail facilities for pre-trial detainees and convicts with less than 3-year prison terms.
An additional 15,000 prison guards will be hired, De Lima said, to address the lack of manpower at BuCor.
"We hope to achieve 1 is to 60 [prisoner to guard] ratio," she added. – Rappler.com
*$1 = P44.58