MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla and Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos Jr. are addressing a challenge that has long plagued the country: congestion in prisons and prisons, often at several times their capacity.
Their plans to address this issue include the long-delayed digitization of carpetas or prison records and the construction of new facilities.
The Bureau of Corrections and the Bureau of Prison Management and Penology have congestion rates of over 300%, already an improvement for city and town jails which were 612% full in 2017. Remulla said that digitized files would make the processing of files for the release of persons deprived of their liberty more efficient and free up space in detention cells.
Remulla said he visited the Office of Pardons and Parole and the Parole and Probation Administration on Wednesday and saw carpets physically delivered to the offices.
More than 30,000 people are held in New Bilibid prison alone. The number of PDLs in the country’s prisons could reach 100,000, which would mean 100,000 files for their files.
“If this manual [carpeta system] will continue, what will happen to those detained?” Remulla said.
The Justice Secretary said they also needed more manpower in the BPP and PPA to process the release of the PDLs which would help decongest the BuCor facilities.
Remulla added that he had already ordered the BuCor to accelerate the digitization of carpets despite initial resistance. “It’s the only way to make things visible online for the BPP, PPA. We’re pushing for it,” he continued.
“It’s not a new thing, but for things that have been done manually for years, but we impose that as a requirement,” Remulla also said.
The justice chief said he also requested an assistant secretary for digital infrastructure from the department to digitize processes from prosecution to correction.
DILG Secretary Abalos said they are also pushing for the digitization of records and the department is discussing this with the Department of Communications and Information Technology. He said it would help harmonize records across DILG offices and the DOJ.
Abalos said the BJMP, under his department, had allocated 6.7 billion pesos to improve and repair prison facilities.
But BJMP prison director Allan Iral admitted they would also need donations of goods from LGUs so they could build more facilities for inmates.
They will also focus on plea bargaining, which would allow defendants to plead guilty to a less serious crime for a shorter sentence.
Iral said they are also coordinating with the courts to expedite hearings to reduce congestion rates at their facilities.
Abalos said they plan to tour prisons across the country to ensure they have a humane environment.
Remulla, meanwhile, gave this reminder: “Every PDL should have a face for everyone, not just a number.”
BuCor – an agency under the DOJ which manages convicts serving prison terms of more than three years – has a prison congestion rate of 330%, while DILG’s BJMP, which manages prisons for people serving a sentence of less than three years and undergoing a trial, has a rate of congestion. by 387%.
At the start of the pandemic, the government put in place measures to decongest prisons where physical distancing and good hygiene – deterrents to the spread of the coronavirus – are a luxury. Among these measures were the review of cases to see which detainees and detainees could already be released and the acceleration of the resolution of pending cases.