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MANILA, Philippines – Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said they plan to relocate the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) from Metro Manila to Occidental Mindoro.
Asked by Senator Robin Padilla during a meeting with the Senate committee on justice and human rights on August 17, Remulla said they plan to reform the minimum, medium, and maximum security prisons. Padilla served time inside the NBP in the late 1990s for illegal possession of firearms.
“Ang medium security naman po at maximum security, marahil mas maganda pong ilipat natin sa Mindoro. Meron po tayong batas ngayon na [inaudible] na gawin natin ito. At doon po kasi, maaari ho silang ma-rehabilitate. Maaari po silang makabalik sa lipunan sapagkat malaki po ang lupa na puwede pong sakahin do’n,” Remulla said.
(For medium and maximum security, I think it’s better if we transfer them to Mindoro. We have an existing law to authorize this. And there, they can be rehabilitated. They can return to society because there’s a lot of land that can be cultivated there.)
Remulla is pertaining to the government’s plan to construct a prison facility in a government property in Occidental Mindoro, which is around eight to 10 hectares.
At the same time, Remulla said they plan to relocate minimum security inmates to Nueva Ecija.
“Ang balak po natin, ang minimum security ay ililipat po sa Nueva Ecija kung nasaan po ang drug rehab facility na hindi naman po nagagamit ang lahat, at sapat po ang laki upang mailipat po ang lahat ng nakapiit ng dahil po sa krimen na ang sentensiya ay hindi po ganoong kahaba.”
(We plan for the minimum security to be relocated to Nueva Ecija, where the underutilized drug rehab facility is located, and it has enough space to transfer all inmates whose sentences are not that long.)
In explaining the need for reforms, Remulla said that over 400 prisoners have escaped Bilibid in the last four decades. The DOJ chief noted the proximity of the prison to the nearby community.
Remulla also said the new location of Bilibid will likewise help prisoners improve their lives since there would be livelihood for them.
“Marahil kung sila po’y masanay po na mamuhay nang mapayapa, na magtatanim po ng mga halaman, at nag-aalaga ng mga hayop, pupuwede hong makatulong pa sa food supply ng ating bansa. Marahil makatutulong po ito na ang kanilang pagkatao ay magbago at sila’y magsimula muli ‘pag tapos na po ang kanilang sintensiya.”
(Maybe if they will be used to living peacefully, to plant and take care of animals, they can even help boost the food supply of our country. This might also help them improve themselves and start over again after they serve their sentence.)
Why this matters
- Congestion. Just like detention facilities under the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), prisons under the Bureau of Corrections, which include the Bilibid, also suffer from congestion. Based on BJMP’s data, the congestion rate in all jail facilities stood at 403% in 2020, which means around 115,336 prisoners occupy facilities meant only for 34,893 people. Larger facilities mean larger spaces for each prisoner.
- Dying prisoners. During the early onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, dozens of inmates have died due to unclear causes without being tested for COVID-19. The world, including the Philippines, has yet to curb the virus, which means COVID-19 remains a threat to everyone, especially for congested detention facilities.
- Deaths of high-profile inmates. Inside the Bilibid, high-profile inmates are not safe from violence, more so from death. A July 2022 report by the National Bureau of Investigation showed that an inside job murder was committed that resulted in the death of eight high-profile drug convicts inside the prison. The convicts were allegedly linked to detained former Senator Leila de Lima.
Even killer ex-cop Jonel Nuezca, who gunned down a mother and son in Tarlac in 2020, died inside the Bilibid. Authorities launched a probe to determine if there was foul play.
- Riots. Aside from congestion, violence and riots inside the Bilibid are also concerning. In 2020, two riots in a month involving gangs killed at least 13 convicts. Despite the heavy security, guns, arrows, and blades were used in the riots. – Rappler.com