Wednesday July 18, 2018

War on drugs congests Philippine jails – Recto

THE government's relentless war on drugs has swelled the inmate population of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) by as much as 40 percent, putting a strain on its resources.

Citing BJMP data, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the government should brace for a steep climb in the country's jail population as a steady stream of arrested users or peddlers of illegal drugs strain the country's jail resources.

At present, two in three BJMP inmates are charged with violating the Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, the senator said.

As of June 30, BJMP records show that 97,321 inmates were in for "drug use, or possession, or trafficking, or sale, or manufacturing, Recto said.

"That's more than six Araneta Coliseums-full of mostly alleged shabu sellers or users," he added.

This rapid rise, Recto said, is putting a strain on state resources as taxpayers cough up P81,732 to feed, house and guard one BJMP inmate annually.

The number of BJMP inmates is projected to breach the 150,000 mark by the end of this month.

The food budget for 150,000 inmates in 446 Bureau of Jail Management and Penology-run prison facilities in the country is expected to run out by mid-October due to the surge in the number of detainees locked up for drug offenses.

BJMP's food allowance budget of P2.32 billion this year was based on an inmate population of 106,280, Recto said, but the latter had already soared by 40 percent to 142,282 by June 30.

Recto said the government has no option but to augment the budget of the BJMP.

"We are supposed to run humane jails, not hunger camps," he said.

An inmate's daily food budget is set at P60.

The surge in jail population has also led to jail congestion, with BJMP reporting a 600 percent congestion rate.

"The total national cell space of 97,789 square meters is ideal for 20,793 inmates; ngayon parang corned beef na siniksik doon ang 142,000 plus na preso," Recto said.

"Sa report ng BJMP, mayroong mga jails na 3,590 percent, 2,603 percent, 2,494 percent congestion rate. Ibig sabihin, imbis na apat na preso lang ang kasya, 159 ang patayong natutulog sa 20 square meters na selda, tulad doon sa isang jail," Recto said.

Recto said the BJMP inmate population has doubled since 2013.

And the BJMP is just one of the three agencies holding prisoners, Recto said.

The Bureau of Corrections keeps watch over 41,258 sentenced felons in eight penitentiaries, while Philippine National Police runs 458 town jails in addition to precinct-level "holding cells."

"From January to June, ang nahuli ng pulis dahil sa RA 9165 ay 127,760. Ngunit ang monthly take-in ng BJMP ay 8,000 lang. Ibig sabihin, marami pa ang nasa pipeline," Recto said. (SunStar Philippines)