Convicts now called ‘persons deprived of liberty’

Perseus Echeminada (The Philippine Star) - April 20, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -  The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) has begun implementing the so-called Mandela rule, which categorizes convicts as “persons deprived of liberty” (PDL) who are entitled to minimum humanitarian treatment under the United Nations protocol.

BuCor director general Benjamin de los Santos told reporters during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay at Café Adriatico in Manila that national penitentiaries across the country are now implementing rehabilitation and reformation programs for PDL in preparation for their return to mainstream society.

He said the priority program is part of the full implementation of the prison modernization program, which includes the salary upgrade of prison personnel and the regionalization of penitentiaries.

De los Santos said he recommended that the P150-billion fund for the construction of a new prison complex be spent to construct new facilities that comply with UN standards on prison facilities, instead of transferring the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) to Nueva Ecija.

“If you transfer Bilibid to Nueva Ecija, you are just transferring the problem,” he said.

De los Santos said the NBP, which is designed for 7,000 inmates, is now teeming with more than 24,000 PDL with only 1,200 prison personnel running the facilities.

The NBP is composed of the maximum, medium and minimum security compounds and the Reception and Diagnostic Center (RDC).

At least 16,000 are housed at the maximum security compound; 4,000 in the medium security compound and 1,000 in the minimum security compound.

Under the UN standard, a prison facility must only house 7,000 inmates, according to De los Santos.

At the RDC, newly admitted PDL undergo a series of evaluations before they are sent to the main prison community.

To beef up security at the NBP, the Philippine National Police has deployed 400 Special Action Force members.

“The prison system in the country has long been neglected by past administrations,” De los Santos said. “We are now drawing up plans for the construction of more prison facilities.”

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