In this Feb. 13, 2019 photo, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno attends a campaign sortie in Camarines Sur.
The STAR/Edd Gumban, File
Diokno accurately claims Philippines tops list of overcrowded jails worldwide
( - April 9, 2019 - 3:29pm

MANILA, Philippines — The claim of senatorial candidate Chel Diokno that the Philippines ranks first in the world in terms of prison overcrowding is accurate.

Diokno, a human rights lawyer running under the Otso Diretso slate, made the claim as he explained his opposition on lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the country on ABS-CBN’s senatorial debate last February 17.

He stressed that such those in syndicates should be punished, not the children, who are mere victims.  

In further explaining his dissent on the proposed move of Congress, Diokno said, “Kakaunti lang ang nakakaalam na ang Pilipinas ang number one sa buong mundo sa overcrowded jails. Alam naman natin, kakaunti pa lang mga Bahay Pag-asa. Saan natin ilalagay ang mga bata na ‘yan pag binaba natin ang age of criminal responsibility?”

(Only few know that the Philippines ranks first in terms of overcrowded jail globally. We know that there are only few Bahay Pag-asa centers. Where will we put the children if we lower the age of criminal responsibility?)

Diokno added: “Mahahalo sila, ihahalo ‘yan sa kulungan ng mga adult at lalo pa silang magiging matitigas na kriminal.”

(They will be mixed with adults in jails and they will become hardened criminals.)

Last month, the House of Representatives passed a bill seeking to lower the age to 12 years old. The counterpart bill at the Senate is still up for debates on the floor.

The proponents of the measure stressed that the bill was filed with the intention to reform children in conflict with the law and not to punish them, and to protect them from being used by criminal syndicates.

But some lawmakers and groups—especially those advocating a more “restorative” handling of children in conflict with the law—said the bill is an act of violence against children and appealed for a strengthened implementation of the current juvenile justice law. 

Philippines tops the list

A fact-check made by the DZUP 1602 found Diokno’s statement to be accurate, citing the World Prison Brief’s list of the most overcrowded incarceration systems in the world.

The Philippines topped the list. As of May 2018, there were 188,278 prisoners—144,871 in Bureau of Jail Management and Penology-manned jails and 47,407 in Bureau of Corrections-manned prisons—in facilities capable of housing only 40,610 individuals. This puts the occupancy level of the country’s prison system at 463.6%.

Most of the individuals have not even been convicted as 75.1 percent of the inmates are pre-trial detainees or remand prisoners.

The Philippines was followed by Haiti (454.4%), El Salvador (333.3%), Guatamela (333.2%) and Comoros (318.3%).

According to its website, the World Prison Brief is a “unique database that provides free access to information about prison systems throughout the world.” Country information is updated monthly using data largely derived from governmental or other official sources.

Since President Rodrigo Duterte launched his violent anti-drug campaign in 2016, Philippine jails have become increasingly more packed.  — Gaea Katreena Cabico is a member of the fact-checking collaborative project headed by the University of the Philippines.

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