DOJ orders monitoring of Bilibid reforms
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday said he had instructed the DOJ’s oversight committee to closely monitor the reforms initiated by Bantag and ensure that the wellbeing of inmates is taken into consideration.
Russell Palma

DOJ orders monitoring of Bilibid reforms

Evelyn Macairan, Non Alquitran (The Philippine Star) - October 14, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has created an oversight body to look into reports of abuses of prisoners following reforms implemented by new Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday said he had instructed the DOJ’s oversight committee to closely monitor the reforms initiated by Bantag and ensure that the wellbeing of inmates is taken into consideration.

Guevarra issued the order following reports that some inmates at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) were exposed to harsh conditions brought about by the clearing operations inside the compound.

“I have directed the interim DOJ oversight committee to closely monitor reforms being initiated by the new Bureau of Corrections leadership and ensure that such reforms are being implemented within the bounds of the law and with due consideration for the wellbeing of inmates in our penitentiaries,” he said.

Bantag has ordered the demolition of “kubols” or huts inside the NBP compound, saying these are illegal. He stressed kubols breed corruption among BuCor personnel by allowing privileged prisoners to use them for their illicit activities.

Bantag said corrupt BuCor personnel allow materials and supplies to be brought in for the construction of kubols.

The ongoing demolition of the kubols, however, left several inmates without any shelter.

Some of the inmates forced out of the kubols had to sleep under the open sky with box cartons as mattress.

Most cannot be accommodated in other detention cells because these are already overcrowded.

An inmate had claimed they have no place to sleep, no food to eat and no water to drink.? Adding to their misery is the lack of electricity, which makes the heat unbearable.

Guevarra stressed the DOJ is not interfering with the BuCor operations.

“The DOJ is not supposed to interfere with the day-to-day operations of the BuCor, as it only exercises general administrative supervision and not control over the bureau,” he added.

But he explained their “supervision” over BuCor includes “calling attention to actions which are improper, unlawful, or way out of bounds. It also includes instituting disciplinary action whenever warranted.”

National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said he supports the reforms initiated by Bantag.

Eleazar said he would continue to work with Bantag to completely stop the continued drug peddling activities of detained drug lords inside the jail facility.

“We have a good start with the BuCor, we intend to finish what we started there in terms of denying all the convicted drug lords inside and even leaders of other criminal syndicates to continue with their illegal operation,” Eleazar said.

The sale of illegal drugs and other contraband in the kubols is what forced Bantag to order the demolition of the shanties, he said.

Eleazar said he would serve as the voice of Bantag in the Philippine National Police in whatever assistance he may need in instituting reforms at the NBP.

“There is now good coordination and cooperation between the police and the BuCor, and also with other law enforcement agencies, this should be taken advantage of and therefore must continue,” Eleazar said.

On Friday, an improvised explosive device went off in one of the kubols being demolished.

Although no one has claimed responsibility for the explosion, investigators however believed it could be a tactic to put off the demolition of illegal structures inside the NBP compound.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa has proposed to transfer the control and supervision of provincial and sub-provincial jails to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in the effort to improve the country’s penal system.

Dela Rosa filed Senate Bill 1100 seeking the transfer of management of all detention facilities to the BJMP.

The former PNP chief, who briefly served as BuCor director general, said the move will result in a uniform and standard set of policies and guidelines in the administration of local jails.

Such a move will also advance the welfare of inmates and detainees, he said.

“Our proposed measure aims to implement a uniformed, undeviating standard in the implementation of existing policies and guidelines with regard to the administration of our detention facilities. This way, we could ensure a high probability of success in the reformation of our persons deprived of liberty (PDLs),” Dela Rosa said.

Local jails are currently under the jurisdiction of two different authorities where the city, municipal and district jails are under the BJMP while the provincial and sub-provincial jails are under the provincial government.

Such setup, Dela Rosa pointed out, hinders the advancement of a national standard in the operational management of all local jails toward a more effective rehabilitation of inmates.

He said the bill seeks to amend certain provisions of Republic Act 6975 or the Department of the Interior and Local Government Act of 1990 so “this will also help in ensuring the efficacy of our reformation programs for PDLs and an improvement in the administration of our detention facilities.”

Government agencies assigned to supervise and run the country’s jail facilities have been draped with controversy in the past weeks following a series of congressional inquiries that started with the premature release of inmates convicted of heinous crimes but were granted freedom under the Good Conduct Time Allowance law. – Paolo Romero, Artemio Dumlao

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