BUREAU OF CORRECTIONS
DAVAO PRISON AND PENAL FARM
DAVAO DEL NORTE
INSIGHTS ON ISSUES AND CONCERNS
AFFECTING NEW BILIBID PRISON IN PARTICULAR AND
THE BUREAU OF CORRECTIONS IN GENERAL
(INCLUDING PROPOSED MEASURES AND ACTIONS TO REFORM THE NATIONAL JAIL SYSTEM)
Submitted in compliance with DOJ ORDER NO. 512, dated JUNE 22, 2011 in re CREATION OF A TECHNICAL WORKING GROUP TO IDENTIFY AND ADDRESS THE PROBLEMS AND CONCERNS AFFECTING THE NEW BILIBID PRISON IN PARTICULAR AND THE BUREAU OF CORRECTIONS IN GENERAL AND TO PROPOSE MEASURES AND ACTIONS TO REFORM THE NATIONAL JAIL SYSTEM.
JULY 1, 2011
MANDATE: Pursuant to DOJ Order Number 512, dated June 22, 2011, through the creation of a Technical Working Group (TWG), issues and concerns that have come to the fore as an offshoot of what is now referred to as the “Leviste incident” (i.e. inmate Leviste’s escape from the NBP on May 18, 2011) shall be given priority in the matter of addressing and identifying problems and concerns in order that measures and actions toward reforming the National Jail System will be conducted.
ISSUES AND CONCERNS: According to DOJ Order number 512, dated June 22, 2011, the TWG shall give priority, in particular, to the following:
- The problem pertaining the worsening jail congestion in the NBP, the CIW and the Bucor’s penal farms and colonies.
- The planned transfer of the NBP to another site and/ or the regionalization of the prison system.
- The modernization of the prison system aimed at addressing principally the prison personnel’s low pay; and at retooling, as well as re-educating and retraining, of prison personnel, especially the prison guards and instilling in them a sense of duty and professionalism.
- The procurement system in the BuCor, especially those related to food catering and supplies.
- The prevalence of underground criminal syndicates run by inmates and presumably allowed by conniving prison officials/ personnel, especially those related to drugs, prostitution, money lending, and other clandestine illegal activities within the confines of the national jails
- The “kubol” system and other unusual arrangements (like the sleep out privilege) that appear to have been tolerated or encouraged by prison officials and the gang culture inside prison;
- The review, revision or amendment of prison rules and regulations particularly those provided in the BuCor Operating Manual;
- The call for an efficient and speedy processing of inmate records for the purpose of granting parole or recommending executive clemency to deserving or qualified inmates, and the release of those whose sentence have been served;
- The possible sources or root causes of graft and corruption with the BuCor, and
- Other problems and concerns that may crop up during the sessions, proceedings of the TWG.
- 1. The problem pertaining the worsening jail congestion in the NBP, the CIW and the Bucor’s penal farms and colonies.
New Bilibid Prison was once the central repository of all convictions in the country until it was decentralized sometime in the early 80’s. Penal farms can now receive direct commitment from regions within their respective areas. For a while, it arrested the influx of prison commitment at NBP. However, there were incidents which intervened. Notwithstanding the pseudo regionalization of the Bureau of Corrections, the commitment from various courts kept on coming. Notwithstanding likewise the presumed lessening of commitment from courts as a result of the probation system, commitment still increased. This can be attributed to the aggressive posture of law enforcement procedures, specially the passage of anti-drugs and anti-organized crime laws which contributed to an almost 25 to 30% increase in prison population. The increase in the prison population also was aggravated by the slow and technical delay on the grant of parole as a consequence of numerous requirements for its application. Hence, releases which for sometime are based on parole consideration has been reduced, where releases would be obtained only after expiration of the full sentence—that means a delay on the release on an average of five years.
This is not only true at New Bilibid Prison where more than 50% of the entire prison population is confined but also obtaining in all prisons and penal farms. An average of almost 105% congestion rate is noted in the entire correctional agency. In Davao Prison and Penal Farm, the congestion rate is 62%.
- 2. The planned transfer of the NBP to another site and/or the regionalization of the prison system.
On the planned transfer of NBP: Sometime in the early 2000s, there were proposals for the transfer of NBP to several sites. These include the following:
—San Miguel, Bulacan: where a landlord offered his estate as site for the National Penitentiary. It never progressed from the stage of proposal though.
—Laur, Nueva Ecija: There was a proposal to occupy a certain portion of the vast military training base in Laur, Nueva Ecija as site of the National Penitentiary and it gained ground for a time. Changes in the prison leadership reduced the proposal into another shallow position paper.
—Barangay Salvacion, Tanay, Rizal: This was one of the most serious attempt to tackle the transfer proposal since the Presidency (PGMA) has issued a mandate to DOJ for consideration. DOJ organized a task force for this purpose. However, the local government in said barangay, specially the Municipal Mayor at that time, discouraged the task force from pursuing because the area is to be submerged in favour of the move to dam several barangays (one of them is Barangay Salvacion) as water shelter and for use and distribution of potable water supply to Metro-Manila as adjunct of Angat Dam water shed. Accordingly, the project is funded by an international agency. The proposed prison site was shelved as a consequence.
—San Andres, Tanay, Rizal: Another site in the same province was again explored. The most recent site verified and checked as an ideal area for the National Penitentiary has been determined by a Technical Working Group organized under the auspices of Office of the President (through its HUDC proponents), DENR, DOJ, NHA and the Bureau of Corrections. Its land area is 300 hectares, located on a higher ground in Tanay, Rizal, a former DENR reservation. The move almost succeeded until the cost of constructing a penal facility was submitted. Accordingly, the cost is too stiff to merit congressional approval. Nonetheless, efforts were made to make the proposal a reality until changes in various leadership from bureau directors to undersecretaries and finally department secretaries including national leadership have been changed. The proposal or that which has been formulated thus far went into hibernation. DOJ officials in charge of the proposed transfer have been replaced already. The main man at the center of the Presidential Task Force, Mr. Noli de Castro (who is back as broadcaster), including top officials of Malacanan and other functionaries in different executive departments went on separate ways, leaving behind the prison transfer agenda hanging somewhere.
Regionalization of the penal establishments: In the mid 80s, the DOJ issued a memorandum regionalizing all prisons and penal farms. This was based on a Presidential Decree issued in the early 70s along with the decree creating the Leyte Regional Prison. In the DOJ memorandum, established penal institutions in the country are mandated to receive commitments of sentenced prisoners from courts of various regions in the country. Hence, in Davao Prison and Penal Farm situated in Region 11, Regional Trial Courts from Regions 9, 10, 11 and Caraga need not transfer and commit its conviction to the National Penitentiary/ New Bilibid Prison anymore. It can send its sentenced insular (those with maximum sentence of three years) to the nearest penal facility. In Regions 9, 10, 11 and Caraga, it is Davao Prison and Penal Farm.
Most recently, in 2008, the Correctional Institution for Women in Mindanao became operational. Conviction of female offenders in the whole Mindanao province need not transfer to the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandalyong city, Metro Manila because of the CIW Mindanao facility within the vast prison reservation of Davao Prison and Penal Farm. This move was made by DOJ by virtue of a Department Order during the tenure of DOJ Secretary Agnes Devanadera.
Regionalization of the prison service is a costly proposition. Ideally however, if there should be a law that would be passed establishing regional prisons, a regional prison must have a 1,000 prison population capacity load. That means a two, 500 inmate bed capacity dormitory building must be constructed in addition to security stations and a facility to house administrative and management officers. A clinic, kitchen, mess hall, visiting area are also to be built in addition to a chapel and quarantine or hospital. Organizing a regional prison while expensive at first glance is economical in the long run. For this set-up, appropriation may be doubled to include the installation of additional technology and increase in manpower in charge of custodial and security matters.
- 3. The modernization of the prison system aimed at addressing principally the prison personnel’s low pay; and at retooling, as well as re-educating and retraining of prison personnel, especially the prison guards and instilling in them a sense of duty and professionalism.
There were no serious attempts to address the modernization of the prison system, past and present. Every prison director appointed at the helm while exhibiting enthusiasm at first glance would rather retreat back for lack of historical and even educational background on the matter. There were no competent evaluation on the requirements of the prison service, much more so on how to “modernize”. The only way by which “modernization” is addressed is simply done through the installation of electronic gadgets which do not even merit any singular significance, say, even on matters where prison documents are accessed.
This is even true on matters where personnel pay level is to be determined and taken up at the Civil Service Committee of Congress. There were no studies conducted, much more so, any critical review on the function, position classification, qualification and eligibility requirements for purposes of upgrading the salary scale of correctional officers.
On the matter of training, the Bucor training school has as yet to formulate an upgraded staff development course. What the training school is offering are merely traditional and regular orientation courses which lack depth as a result of the fact that there are no funds to sustain its professional programs.
Prison personnel is not found wanting in the department of duty and professionalism. As a matter of fact, they could easily assimilate any policy discipline and direction, if any, as initiated (if at all) by the prison leadership. Once before, this officer submitted to the prison leadership a proposed Correctional Ethics guidelines so that all prison personnel will be properly directed. The prison personnel community was expecting its issuance. Unfortunately, it was never circulated at all. It never even merited a second look. Worst, this officer, as author, was even “floated.” As a consequence, nobody wanted to talk about ethics anymore from that time on. Any discussion about sense of duty and professionalism is considered a sensitive and fearful proposition.
- The procurement system in the BuCor, especially those related to food catering and supplies.
This is a very sensitive field. Procurement of high volume supplies and high volume contracts are within the province of the prison leadership. It is never an area where functionaries should deal. It belongs to those at the top. It has been said that the post of prison leadership is a politically given reward position. Since most (if not all) of those appointed have no background in prison administration, they usually end up understanding instead and determining as well, what the “rewarding” part of their appointment really is. As what could be gleaned from the way administrator’s demeanour in prison management, it (the reward) is oftentimes situated within the realm of procurement of supplies and related matters.
While it is true that catering contract may be argued to be advantageous from the vantage point of determining errors in the unlikely event of mass poisoning, the sad state of those involved with all the harassment and threats to come across demands, made the entire exercise difficult. There are no defects from contracts even in matters where bidding is applied. The unfortunate part is when the contract is to be perfected and those at the dotted lines will seek demanding portion of the take. Not those at the contracting side but those at the approving level. In other words, the critical path is the post of leadership. The expose made by an anonymous informer regarding takes and percentages in catering contract payment finds its relevant and probable side as far as this aspect is concerned. It was alleged that those at the top skim the profits of the caterer and skim off further from what is due the prison population. A sorry state indeed if proven in all likelihood. Only a principled leadership has the courage the walk the talk, or even to walk on the righteous path (daang matuwid). Again, it remains to be seen.
- The prevalence of underground criminal syndicates run by inmates and presumably allowed by conniving prison officials/ personnel, especially those related to drugs, prostitution, money lending, and other clandestine illegal activities within the confines of the national jails:
As long as there are gangs, there will always be irregular or other clandestine illegal activities in prison camps. The mere fact that gangs are even recognized and deferred to means that there is official tolerance on the way they would conduct to the point of allowing the prevalence of underground criminal syndication. Prison officials or personnel had no way to control it if their superiors could not contain gangs themselves. Prison officials, much more so, prison personnel are at the disadvantaged end whenever gangs would exercise its power to manufacture complaints against the personnel himself to the point of harassing him further until he resigns out of desperation. For those who could not handle the situation are most likely to roll with the punches so to speak. They would rather stay at the sidelines and be ineffective witnesses to power instead. Those principled who will never be cowed are immediately reflected on the hitlist. Whichever, the prison officer is at the losing end. Gangs indeed are that dominant.
Gangs are sustained from fees they demand from regular visitors. The funds collected are invested in prison handicraft and other entrepreneurial activities. The proceeds or profits from revenues are used to retain lawyers they could use not necessarily to represent them in their quest for justice but to protect them from anyone who dared control them. Gangs are everywhere and could be found around the metropolis. For example, the gang BCJ (or Batang City Jail) controls all pick pockets and “akyat jeepney” from Quiapo to Trabajo. There are gangs also that specialize in “akyat-bahay” and “bukas-kotse.” These gang members are regularly visiting their incarcerated comrades and sustaining also their requirements through funding contribution. Hence, gangs in prison are almost untouchable and also very influential. They could count assistance and connection through their contacts in law enforcement units and other offices.
Gangs are anathema, if not an abomination, in prison camp because they tend to control the prison environment and it goes without saying, the prison authorities as well. It is not even surprising (although Congressman Pong Biazon was himself surprised) when he discovered during his prison inspection tour that prisoners control the keys to their respective dormitories—a basic function which correctional officers are trained to conduct, that is, the safekeeping of keys. If prisoners are allowed to have the keys to their dormitories or cells, how much more in terms of running the facility itself. If a prison officer, in charge as dorm or cell keepers would insist on their function by handling the key, in no time will the prison officer be at the end of his luck. Either he suffers from charges by gangs (i.e.,a gang member may surrender a bottle of wine to the authorities, inventing a complaint, alleging that the strict prison personnel was selling it to them) or will just be waylaid in one corner and get stabbed.
Fortunately, not all prison establishments have gangs like New Bilibid Prison. Davao Prison and Penal Farm has no gangs to speak of.
- The “kubol” system and other unusual arrangements (like the sleep out privilege) that appear to have been tolerated or encouraged by prison officials and the gang culture inside prison;
The “kubol” system is personal and delicate attempt to protect the privacy or private requirements of prisoners by themselves. Since the design of Philippine prison facilities are highly communal (dormitory or barracks type as against singular cells operated in other countries) and almost everything is transparent, the need of the prisoner for some contemplation or some areas to reflect becomes an exacting requirement and therefore constructing a simple makeshift room becomes an alternative place for temporary occupation.
The “Kubol” however simple its origin is, has been abused to include spunky corners for those who could spend a fortune redesigning a quasi-condominium pad in lieu of a prison space in the dormitory. Worst, as these simple contraptions have been tolerated, gangs and those they patronize, the so called celebrity or VIPs (because they contribute heavily on the cause of gangs) would even construct a housing unit complete with furnishing and related amenities! What began as a simple solution to drudgery of communal life by an ordinary prisoner became an expression of disparity and symbol of corruption if not an illustration of how spineless prison administration has become. How can a lowly prison guard therefore check the excesses of some prisoners when these personalities have direct connections and having animated interactions with their superiors? There was even an instance when gang leaders are allowed to participate as resource persons during a congressional hearing!
The so called “sleep out privilege” has no such place in the prison rules. As a matter of fact, it was only a loose coined expression that found formal introduction in official reports and institutional orders. (Another loose term, candidly used but never is a part of prison rules is “living-out”. It is just an expression to mean those prisoners under minimum security status, specifically as defined under Prison Rules classification category of Minimum B) While there is a provision in the Rules for the Treatment of prisoners where inmates are reclassified in project sites and allowed to sleep in said area subject for the regular daily shift headcount referred to as Minimum B, for prisoners classified as minimum security status and assigned in outstations involved in agro industrial and general services, it is never a privilege at all. It is an arduous; if not a strenuous assignment which most prisoners would rather seek relief from. These assignments are usually part of a prison personnel job description but could not cope with the multiple demands of his job, hence, the need for prisoners to assist in the performance of a task (i.e., regular inspection of electric transformers or generators usually attended and observed at night time especially during periods when there is power interruption.)
What is unusual with the Leviste incident is that inmate Leviste is not qualified to be classified as minimum security and his assignment in an area where he can retire by the lagoon (which has been loosely called “sleep out”) in a housing unit (he caused its construction and passed it on as a “kubol” although it is never one, going by the definition of the orginal “kubol”) makes the entire picture descriptive of what is derisively and informally referred to as “sleep-out privilege.” That which makes the arrangement even more irregular was his designation in a sleep out assignment without passing through or subjected to the Classification Board deliberation. He was assigned by virtue of an institutional order only by an officer not even authorized to issue without Classification Board review.
The gang culture prevails in every facet of prison life in New Bilibid Prison. It dictates the tempo of social interaction in the prison community. It defines the prison climate. It has its own exclusive language and norms. It has a defensive mechanism, an armed component (the prison community knows them as “tiradors”) if you may and a battery of paid legal consultants (some are even assigned and maintained by celebrity prisoners themselves. In other words, the lawyers come from prestigious law firm at thats!). It is not unusual to discover that a handful of prison guards would rather be recruited to the fold of gangs not necessarily to do its bidding but out of survival. The prison service, especially that which prison guards must perform is gruelling and tough, demanding and very intricate. It is totally a balancing act. Prison guards would rather be given assigned tasks as community patrol or tower personnel than have direct interaction with prisoners inside the prison camp. If their superiors cannot subdue or abolish gangs, how much more can they in their lowly post could make things happen as far as control is concerned? And, what is even more galling for the prison personnel is when they would witness in occasions when prison leadership is even recognized with a plaque of appreciation by gangs!
- The review, revision or amendment of prison rules and regulations particularly those provided in the BuCor Operating Manual.
The BuCor Operating Manual circa 2000 was issued purposely to supplement prison rules but it falls short in replacing the 1959 Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. The Manual however does not pretend to be the replacement since some provisions refers to the 1959 Rules as the main reference. There should be a compendium of Prison Rules or Prison Rules should be annotated to include recent measures or orders supplementing related rules. Based on this work, as principal reference, all prison officers will have a clear cut understanding on how they can efficiently and properly conduct their daily tour of duty. Without any reference, the entire prison officer corps are as confused as any civilian prison visitor is.
The Prison Rules annotated or Prison Rules Compendium should include foremost a portion where Correctional Ethics is emphasized so that the core officers will exude the necessary professional outlook right from the start.
- The call for an efficient and speedy processing of inmate records for the purpose of granting parole or recommending executive clemency to deserving or qualified inmates, and the release of those whose sentence have been served:
The BuCor’s document section—where processing of inmate records are conducted—is for quite a time given an impression by personnel as a “Siberian assignment.” Anyone adjudged as ineffective or suspected even of being inefficient or declared not a team player is easily assigned in the dusty and respiratory-risk document section. If we could gather a number of this kind of personalities and group them in a homogenous manner in a highly sensitive apparatus of prison administration, it is not the lungs of these people that suffer most. It is the prison records and the processing system that gets the flak.
There were attempts in the past to contract the records through micro-film technology until the recent upgraded version of computerization became relevant. There were even attempts to have the prison records prepared for computer linkage with other agencies in the criminal justice administration especially the Board of Pardons and Parole for a prompt and expeditious review of documents by-passing the slow pick-and-deliver mode done through emissaries and clerks. But this never materialized because of changes in the prison leadership. Every move, significant move, to bring the document section to a heightened level of performance is always punctuated by changes in the priority concern of the prison leadership. One day, it is on top of the action agenda. Another day, it is at the bottom. Along this line, this aspect depends highly on how prison leadership treats or views prisoner welfare from the vantage point of his orientation.
- The possible sources or root causes of graft and corruption within the BuCor:
Graft and corruption in BuCor is systemic. When a new prison leadership assumes command and institute a system through the numerous confidential staff he would bring into the organization, that is where the real problem on graft and corruption begins. The entire agency will be parcelled according to territory. One will take charge of the procurement, another with the dispensation of supply, while others will check on the list of celebrity prisoners wanting any direct line for assistance or whatever arrangements to be forged. There are those who would monitor if penal farms have surfeit in prison products, while the rest are seeking any other contracts to be bilked for possible considerations. Caterers, dealers and suppliers are oftentimes the target of these personalities. And these characters, having been blessed as part or sinecures of the leadership have powers over ordinary officers and they do not even have any official mandate nor liable if anything unfortunate happens.
As to the lower kind of graft and corruption but graft and corruption nonetheless, as it readily is obtaining in the prison camp, we have an interchange of guise or persona. At times, the prisoner would offer innocent or aggressive assistance to the prison personnel in exchange of a favour. Trafficking is often the expression. A prisoner would request a prison guard to buy for him say, a family size fried chicken at Max’s, the price of which is Php 340.00, but the prisoner gives Php 600, keep the change. If there are 5 prisoners who would seek the same errand, the prison guard earns so much in a day’s fitting tribute. There are also times when a prison guard would offer his extra services by moonlighting as collector of a prisoner’s handicraft business. When this happens, the prison guard becomes an employee of the person he is tasked to guard and discipline. The list is never ending. Either the prisoner earns in the process or the prison guard or officer does. Each of them trying to corrupt the other and oftentimes in the course of their alliances, there is graft that is promoted.
The root cause of graft and corruption is not actually the environment or the denizens that populate it—staff or inmate, neither the visitors or volunteers in prison. It is money. Money in the hands of prisoners is a volatile element. It can change the game out rightly. Money can buy privileges; it can even buy license to any activity, concessions and opportunities. At most, it can solicit drug problem, prostitution rings, loan sharking and other clandestine illegal activities.
Graft and corruption in a penal setting can easily resolved if and only when money in circulation is regulated.
- Other problems and concerns that may crop up during the sessions, proceedings of the TWG.
- Congestion will remain as one of the big problems even if there will be attempts to decongest NBP. Even assuming that there will be a construction boom in all penal farms to accommodate the growing number of convictions. While construction of additional facilities will for a time, tide over the problem, it will however cause a lot of interlinking problems. Congestion will likewise push for an increase in the number of prison officers to be posted. There is also the increase in the appropriation for the maintenance and upkeep of prisoners, cost of medicine and rehab programs that go with the entire caboodle.
- There should be a law that would send those who have committed victimless crimes not on the path of incarceration but penalized through community service instead. If they fail in the course of the community service provision then imprisonment is to be resorted. But in the sentencing, the alternative form is best to be prescribed. Let us consider one victim-less crime instead of institutionalization be sent for community service, say the crime of malversation (or drug possession, or drug addiction, or bribery, or prostitution, etc). Let us presume for purposes of analysis that the penalty for incarceration is five (5) years or 1,825 days. If the convict instead of incarceration is sent for community service, congestion is partially resolved, government appropriation for his maintenance is done away with, to a name a few advantages. If we have 1,000 convicts who are sent instead for community service, at Php 50 per capita a day, we already have saved Php 50k in a day. If we have these I,000 inmates in prison maintained at Php 50 per for an average of 5 years or 1,825 days, that means a hefty amount of Php 91 Million plus already. If these number are under community service, government is spared Php 91 Million plus already or a yearly savings of Php 18Million. And we are only computing a very conservative 1,000 figure. It can even go up to the figure of 10,000 inmates which may be qualified to be sent for community service instead of institutionalization. Likewise, the number of those who will no longer be institutionalized is a significant reduction in a congested plagued penal setting.
- There is also the issue or concern about integration of corrective services. First, it must be pointed out that the nomenclature of the Bureau of Corrections is nowhere near its ideal mandate. When we talk of corrections, we infer both institutional and non-institutional approaches. Under institutional, we have prisons (for which Bucor stands for), jails (under BJMP), holding centers for minors(under DSWD), custodial centers (AFP). Under non-institutional we have probation and parole. If indeed as the name suggests Bureau of Corrections is really that agency tasked with Corrections, then it should be clear that it should exercise administrative supervision over all prisons, jails and community based correctional services. As it were, the Bureau of Corrections is only in charge of prisons. The change of its name as provided for under the 1989 Administrative Code does not live up to its present standing. Either it should exercise its corresponding role as its name suggests or it reverts back to its former nomenclature as Bureau of Prisons. As a consequence, the nomenclature and its stand provides for a confusing status not only projected locally but also as it is featured in international forum. If the law could not distinguish clearly the agency’s personality, how much more its personnel.
- The problem of congestion can be rectified temporarily with the construction of additional facilities to accommodate the excess number of prisoners. This is a temporary measure because it offers a limited view. There should also be an increase in the number of prison workers to approximate ratio of personnel as against a number of prisoners. The passage of a law on community service will reduce markedly admission in prison to a manageable level.
- Gangs must go. It cannot be abolished though because it has already created a deep culture and has been allowed for some time to take roots into the prison community. It can however be dissolved through a series of officially conducted measures. This matter requires competence and fairness on the part of prison administration. Gangs have leaders and grow in number. Attempts before to do away with gangs failed even if prison authorities marooned all gang leaders (bosyo) and transferred them in penal colonies. In no time, the gangs have elected and choice their respective leaders. The most effective way therefore is to ALPHABETIZE the dormitory assignment of prisoners. As a result, gang affiliation will no longer hold groups together. Gangs will eventually be a thing of the past.
` While gangs have social benefits for its members like protecting their sense of identity and belongingness, even as a crutch that holds sanity or a cultural norm that sustains hope and security of individual prisoners, it is also the principal vehicle that brings forth excesses—that which is irregular and crooked. There are special “kubols” because of gang assistance. There are gambling nooks, intoxication, substance or drug trade and abuse, prostitution, even summary killings among prisoners because of the gang controlled environment. Prison authorities are helpless to govern and control the prison community because the gangs itself are at the front line. There is no other option but to ALPHABETIZE the prison dormitory assignments so that gangs will find no fulfilling climate to thrive.
- There should be no money in circulation in the prison compound. As a matter of fact, money should be prohibited if not declared as contraband inside the prison compound. Money in circulation in prison compound means money to bribe, money to corrupt, money to procure drugs and illegal substances, money to buy explosives, firearms, ammunition and other deadly weapons, money to buy flesh, money to buy privileges, money to pay gun-for-hire, and the list is almost endless. Money in circulation is literally the root cause of graft and corrupt practices in the penal setting. It must be replaced with plastic chips and can only be used when transacting for goods on personnel needs and buying additional food at the officially designated prison store.
- Whoever will be at the helm of the prison agency must know Prison Rules and its applicable precepts and implications. Per diagnostic view of DOJ, BuCor is sick. To appoint someone without knowledge about Bucor’s illnesses (and strengths), is like having one’s treatment supervised not by a doctor or specialist but one who is not familiar with treating illnesses. The creation of a series of TWG is most likely to be the usual route and traditional prescription. Meanwhile, the humanity in prison is wasted, government funds washed out and corrective service will be a pointless act, atrophied and emaciated of principles. The post of Prison Director must have a term limit. Say, five years. It is a short term for a good one, but a long wait for somebody not responsive. Nevertheless, it should signal from the start that short and mid-range program can be fulfilled without the inconvenience of time restrictions and related considerations.
- Bucor (or DOJ for that matter) must be active in the legislative front. For almost three decades, there has been no legislative plan or resolution (except exceptional voices clamouring for prison reforms whenever there are sensational incidents exposed in media, and this means a occasional jab whenever there are no worthy news to feature) on prison reforms. A Corrections Act is in order therefore. It may include the integration of all corrective agencies under one office, bureau, commission or department, whatever. As it were, corrections in the Philippines is fragmented and each office applies a different set of rules (if at all). In other words, there are no standards, benchmarks or any touchstone which correction officers must adhere to. The Corrections Act may also introduce options aside from integration, for local jails to privatize its mandate, initiate work furlough for prisoners, institute community service (as part of community-based corrections) for those who committed victimless crimes instead of institutionalization and review the prison sentence reduction scheme to favour those qualified for its application. As expected, the Act may also provide for a clause on those appointed at the helm to have a defined term limit to pursue short and mid-range programs.
- A specific concern this officer wishes to bring to the fore is the application of incarceration for female offenders which as observed is still arbitrary and needs thorough review. There should be additional consideration for the evaluation of release or parole application for this sector. As it were, only those with severe ailments or dying and those with advanced age get the nod for early release. Other factors like being mothers and only available daughter to senile parents not to mention as a single parent to a sick or disadvantage child must also be included in the determination of a favourable ruling in the grant of executive clemency.
- On matters where to situate excess number of prison population as in addressing congestion issues, it is also submitted as a matter for policy exploration, the occupation of some islands within the Spratly group of islands or those recently renamed Recto Bank. Prisoners with relatively longer term to serve may be sent to these islands to complete their judicially prescribed penalty. Since the transfer and possibly the subdued and difficult conditions on which these prison transferees may experience, there should be an incentive in terms of a reduced prison term to be applied for those chosen. As it were, there are moves to transfer prisoners from NBP which is suffering from acute congestion to another penal establishment which is also undergoing virtually the same congestion blues. The Spratly alternative may yet hold the key for this purpose.
PREPARED AND SUBMITTED BY:
P/SUPT IV VENANCIO J. TESORO
Davao Prison and Penal Farm
Officially designated Spokesman, Bureau of Corrections
Mobile #: 0921-2658920
Tel/Fax: (082) 2264629