The poor state of the penal system in the country is the reason why authorities can’t detain high-profile personalities implicated in the P10-billion pork barrel scam in facilities like the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology or BJMP, a veteran lawmaker said.
Valenzuela City Congressman Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian made the remark amid calls from some sectors to hold those charged in the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF scam in regular jails instead of the detention facility at the Philippine National Police or PNP-Custodial Center inside Camp Crame.
“The Sandiganbayan has no choice but to order the detention of the personalities facing plunder charges in the PNP-Custodial Center due to the over-congestion of BJMP jails, including the Quezon City Jail, which is nearest to the anti-graft court,” Gatchalian said.
Critics have been asking why lawyer Jessica Lucille “Gigi” Reyes – Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s former chief of staff, who is neither an elected official nor a state witness – should get special detention facilities instead of being detained in regular jails under the BJMP.
But in a letter to the Sandiganbayan, the warden of Quezon City Police District or QCPD’s Female Dormitory inside Camp Karingal said their facility is more than full already.
Warden Chief Inspector Elena Rocamora pointed out in her letter that the women’s jail in Quezon City is 800 percent congested. The Female Dormitory currently has a total of 504 inmates living in a space built only to house 56 persons.
Gatchalian, for his part, said Rocamora’s letter is a reaffirmation of the sorry state of the BJMP’s detention facilities nationwide.
In January 2013, the BJMP claimed that in Metro Manila alone, 314 out of their 415 jail facilities are overcrowded while the average congestion rate is 318 percent.
The former Valenzuela City mayor noted that the presence of overstaying prisoners – those who have already served their sentences for bailable crimes but are still languishing in prison due to their failure to post bail – contributes to the congestion of jails.
Due to poverty, some inmates are forced to stay in detention facilities, where they enjoy free board and lodging being provided by BJMP.
In the same January 2013 report, the BJMP revealed that a total of 797 prisoners have been overstaying in their facilities nationwide. 320 of them are overstaying in BJMP facilities in the National Capital Region alone.
To solve this, Gatchalian is in talks with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines or IBP to give free legal consultations to prisoners, who are not supposed to overstay in jail in his effort to further lessen the number of inmates detained in Valenzuela City Jail.
“’Yung simple theft, ang kulong d’yan mga 3 to 6 months lang dapat, pero dahil sa dami ng hinahawakan na kaso at hindi rin makapiyansa ‘yung tao – minsan kasi ang piyansa ay P20,000 – hindi talaga kaya ng pamilya,” Gatchalian pointed out.
“At dahil hindi nababayaran ‘yung piyansa, nakukulong ‘yung tao na mahigit sa dalawang taon. Dalawa ang maidudulot nito: first, ‘yung city jail natin, madedecongest. At second, ‘yung mga naka-serve na ng sentence ay makakalaya na po,” Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian said future partnership with IBP is necessary due to overloading of cases filed in courts, which the Public Attorney’s Office or PAO couldn’t manage alone.
“Marami sa ating city jail nakukulong d’yan dahil sa maliliit na kaso dahil po sa nadaming hinahawakang kaso ng ating mga huwes at umaabot na sa lampas-lampas na sa kanilang sintensiya,” Gatchalian said.
“Kaya paglampas-lampas na yung sitensiya, itong IBP magfi-file na ng motion na naka-serve na siya ng kanyang sentence dahil kung iintayin pa niya yung PAO matatagalan. Kawawa naman. Imbis na narereporma yung tao, lalo pang nagiging hardcore na kriminal,” Gatchalian lamented.
Gatchalian said he is also collaborating with IBP to come up with a support system that can accelerate the resolution cases of Valenzuela inmates as this would also efficiently help the local government in further reducing the number of detainees staying in Valenzuela City Jail.
Since 2013, the BJMP and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) awarded the Valenzuela City Jail as the best jail unit in the Philippines.
Next week, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) will accredit Valenzuela City Jail for providing humane treatment to inmates. (R Burgos)