Philippine jails

Gov’t plans to release around 5,000 detainees before Christmas

Jairo Bolledo

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Gov’t plans to release around 5,000 detainees before Christmas

JAIL. Persons deprived of liberty inside the Manila City Jail get a chance to talk to their loved ones as the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology started the resumption of face-to-face visitation in jails on December 13, 2022.

Rappler

The government plans to release the prisoners through the Good Conduct Time Allowance law, which in the past was applied in questionable instances like in the case of rape-slay convict Antonio Sanchez

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) plans to release around 3,000 to 5,000 persons deprived of liberty (PDL) before Christmas, December 25, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) announced on Saturday, December 2.

Quoting BJMP chief Jail Director Ruel Rivera, the PCO said the bureau plans to release the PDLs through the Republic Act No. 10592 or the Good Conduct and Time Allowance (GCTA). The said law allows PDLs to have their jail time reduced on the basis of good behavior, resulting to their early release.

Although the GCTA is hailed for being a commendable method to release PDLs and decongest prison facilities, the law is not fool-proof. There were instances where the GCTA was applied in questionable instances like in the case of rape-slay convict Antonio Sanchez.

His case ignited public outrage in 2019 after he was almost released through the GCTA. Sanchez’s release was delayed when the BuCor said the former mayor committed infractions while inside prison. Sanchez died in March 2021. The GCTA scandal also resulted into more revelations, such as the law being sold to convicts and the BuCor’s problematic record-keeping.

Gov’t plans to release around 5,000 detainees before Christmas

Rivera, meanwhile, pointed out that based on the BJMP records, they were able to release around 74,000 PDLs from January to October 30 this year by implementing court orders.

In a statement early this week, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos, who oversees the BJMP, said the overcrowding or congestion of jails had so far eased. From 281% in January, Abalos said the overcrowding was reduced to 238%.

Although the jails are seeing improvement, the facilities under the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) still suffer from staggering jail congestion. BJMP houses PDLs on trial and those convicted with sentence below three years. BuCor facilities, meanwhile, is home to PDLs who have been convicted of crimes with much higher penalty.

Combining the data of all the seven prison facilities under the BuCor, the country’s prisons suffer from a congestion rate 321%. Take the New Bilibid Prison, the country’s national penitentiary, for example. The prison houses 30,701 PDLs — as of August 2023 — although it is only meant to contain 6,345 PDLs.

Aside from the GCTA, the government has other efforts to decongest prisons, such as opening more prison facilities in the regions and transferring the New Bilibid Prison. Even the country’s Supreme Court has helped in decongesting jails by recommending writ of kalayaan, which can be used by prisoners who have compelling arguments so they can be freed.

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Supreme Court wants a prisoner rights writ but BuCor disagrees

Supreme Court wants a prisoner rights writ but BuCor disagrees

However, the BuCor opposed this, saying matters of releasing prisoners are best left to the discretion of the legislative and the executive. — Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

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