Mandaue, IBP Cebu City join forces to fast-track inmates release, decongest jail

Mandaue, IBP Cebu City join forces to fast-track inmates release, decongest jail
Photo by Honey Cotejo

THE Mandaue City Government signed an agreement with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu City Chapter to expedite the release of certain inmates, particularly under preventive detention, and help decongest the Mandaue City Jail.

The agreement was made through the implementation of the "Humanity Behind Bars: An Integrated Jail Decongestion and Management" program at the Office of the City Mayor on Monday, February 26, 2024.

The MOA signing was attended by officials of the Mandaue City Government, representatives and heads of the Mandaue City Police Office (MCPO), Mandaue City Jail Female and Male Dormitories, and other private and public stakeholders.

During the signing, the participants discussed the key components of the Humanity Behind Bars program. This includes the introduction of a digital platform called Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDL) Management Data.

The platform is designed to inventory and monitor the case status of PDLs, decongest jails, and facilitate efficient correctional facility management.

Oplan Bilis Laya

At the event, the IBP Cebu City Chapter presented Oplan Bilis Laya, a legal aid service that is aimed at assisting in the timely release of PDLs who have completed their sentence or are eligible for probation, pardon, parole, or early release.

The service is provided through the help of law student practitioners who work under the supervision of the IBP Cebu City Legal Aid Service Group the IBP Cebu City Chapter established MOAs between Cebu Law Schools, and other IBP Cebu City Chapter initiatives.

Lawyer Mary Grace Casano, executive director for legal aid of the IBP Cebu City Chapter core team and the technical working group (TWG) head of the Cebu City Justice Zone, presented the common challenges faced by courts and jail facilities in the country that impede the justice system of the Philippines.

These challenges include institutional barriers to court docket congestion such as the lack of drug courts and an unbalanced number of drug courts (only five) despite 90 percent of PDL cases about violations of Republic Act 9165, which causes a delay in court proceedings.

There is also a shortage of judges, prosecutors, public attorneys, parole and probation officers, and court personnel.

In addition, inadequate and substandard facilities and living conditions in jails, delay in drug dependency examination (DDE) due to lack of accredited DDE physicians, and financial incapacity of persons deprived of liberty (PDL), including jail congestion and overcrowding, are contributing to the problem.

Jail overcrowding

Lawyer Jose Glenn Capanas, dean of the University of San Carlos School of Law and Governance, emphasized that according to the Supreme Court (SC), as of 2023, approximately 70 percent, or roughly 335 out of the 478 jail facilities nationwide are overcrowded.

Out of the total of around 126,000 inmates in the country, 69.51 percent or around 87,500 are under preventive detention, while only 30.49 percent, or around 38,400, have been convicted and sentenced.

Capanas reported that the SC stated that around 87,203 out of the 126,000 inmates nationwide are facing charges related to illegal drugs, while 39,144 have non-drug-related cases.

The SC defines preventive detention as the temporary confinement of an alleged suspect in jail or prison while undergoing investigation or trial awaiting final judgment. This is different from convicted prisoners who have already undergone trial and have been convicted by a court of law or tribunal for the felony they committed.

While the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) reported a drop of 367 percent in congestion in 2023 compared to 600 percent in 2018, Capanas believes that the country's congestion rate is still relatively high. Therefore, there is a need for collaboration between judges, jail personnel, local government units, and other stakeholders to decrease it.

Mandaue's jail situation

In Mandaue City, Jonathan Baltar, superintendent of the male dormitory of the Mandaue City Jail, stated that out of around 1,506 male PDLs, 406 of them are under preventive detention as of February 26.

Meanwhile, Shela Serrano, superintendent of the female dormitory of the MCJ, reported that there are 87 out of the 126 female PDLs who are under preventive detention.

In 2015, the Mandaue City Jail was considered one of the most congested jail facilities in Central Visayas. It had a jail congestion of 1,701 percent, according to the BJMP.

The facility was originally designed to accommodate around 95 inmates, but at that time, it was hosting around 1,000 male inmates and a hundred female inmates.

The female dormitory could cater to only around 22 persons.

According to court officials, the main reason for the slow disposal of cases was the lack of trial courts to handle the large volume of cases in Mandaue City. There are only three Regional Trial Court (RTC) branches in Mandaue City compared to 22 in Cebu City.


To help decongest the Mandaue City Jail, the Mandaue City Government has created several initiatives, including building a wider jail facility with a larger inmate capacity.

In September 2023, the male dormitory of MCJ was successfully transferred to its new location in Barangay Dungguan in Barangay Basak. Baltar said this move significantly improved their congestion problem.

But the PDLs within the female dormitory are yet to transfer from the old jail facility in Barangay Looc to Basak. The reason for the delay is that the new area of the female dormitory remains swampy and still needs an embankment.

Serrano said the transfer would take place as soon as the embankment is complete. There are local funds set to be approved for this year for this purpose.

The new jail facility has the ideal capacity of 280 inmates for the male dormitory and 40 for the female dormitory.

New system

Alan Garciano, executive judge of RTC 83 in Mandaue City, reported that they are implementing a new system to expedite the release of PDLs who have served their maximum sentence.

This system involves acknowledging the release of PDLs without the need for a court order, as long as the jail personnel can verify that the PDL has indeed completed their sentence.

"The court is informed of the release seven days before the PDL's release, as stated by the Office of the Court Administrator Circular 201-2022," said Garciano.

Garciano welcomed the Humanity Behind Bars program, saying it would help decongest the Mandaue City Jail. (HIC)


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