Philippine justice system

Lowering of bail amount for indigents can free 3 of 10 prisoners – expert

Jairo Bolledo

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Lowering of bail amount for indigents can free 3 of 10 prisoners – expert

DETAINED. For a brief moment, persons deprived of liberty at the Mandaluyong City Jail hug, talk and offer flowers to catch up with their visiting loved ones, on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2023.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

Still, some accused or respondents are having difficulties paying even smaller bail amounts, says prisons reform expert Raymund Narag

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla’s order for prosecutors to lower the bail amount for indigents can free around three out of 10 persons deprived of liberty (PDL) in the country, according to a prisons reform expert.

“This is indeed a very big win for us. I’ve been advocating for criminal justice reforms kasi ‘yong bail ‘yong isa sa pinakamalaking problema (because bail is one of our biggest problems),” Raymund Narag, a Southern Illinois University Carbondale criminology professor, said during his interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel.

And we just thought na kapag ang P10,000 ang magiging kumabaga standard for now, eh mapapalaya mo ‘yong 30% ng mga clients sa buong Pilipinas…. Ang daming lalaya, and ang daming savings ang makukuha ng gobyerno,” Narag added.

(And we just thought that if P10,000 will be the standard for now, you can free 30% of the clients in the Philippines. Many will be released, which means more savings for the government.)

In a memorandum dated February 20, Remulla slashed by half any bail amount that will be recommended by prosecutors for indigents under the 2018 New Bail Bond Guide., and also set at P10,000 the bail cap for indigent respondents – whichever is lower.

As of 2022, the country’s prisons suffer from extreme congestion, with a staggering congestion rate of 396% nationwide, according to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology. Of the total number of jails in the country, 336 or 70.59% are considered congested.

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The New Bilibid Prison, the country’s national penitentiary, has an intended capacity of 6,345, but has an actual population of 29,204, as of October 2022, based on the Bureau of Corrections’ data.

Meanwhile, Narag also noted that some accused or respondents are having difficulties paying even smaller bail amounts.

“And, do’n sa mga ginawa namin na pag aaral, napansin namin na may mga PDLs na P1,000, P2,000,  even P10,000 ang kanilang bail amount, hindi nila ma-provide,” Narag explained. (And based on our studies, we’ve found out that there are PDLs who can’t even provide the bail amount of P1,000, P2,000, and even P10,000.)

He added that prosecutors and judges should look into the financial capacities of the accused or PDLs in recommending and approving bail amount.

The lowering of recommended bail amount will apply to the prosecutors who are under the justice department. Both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the High Court have bail bond guide, which only have recommendatory powers – because the court is the one which decides about bails.

“By law, it’s the judge who has the final say, kung papalayain ‘yong accused (if the accused will be freed) during the pendency of the trial,” Narag added.

How about those with pending cases?

Based on Section 1 of the DOJ’s circular lowering the bail amount, only cases undergoing inquest or those in preliminary investigation will be covered. When asked how the memorandum will still ease the jail congestion, Narag explained that the memorandum would lessen the number of individuals being detained.

Unahin na lang muna ‘yong mga papasok, right? ‘Yong mga papasok kasi, ang daming pumapasok eh. Sa Manila City Jail, for example, there are around 10 to 15 PDLs na pumapasok, every day po ‘yan. So kung dati-rati ay 10 o 15, eh dalawa, tatlo na lang ang papasok, right?” he said.

(Those who will enter detention facilities should be prioritized because there are a lot of people who are being detained. In Manila City Jail, for example, there are around 10 to 15 PDLs who are admitted every day. So, if before 10 to 15 entered the facilities, now you will probably have only two or three.) – Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.