Include bigger prisons in COVID-19 plan -- Villanueva

A religious leader-turned-politician is urging the national government to include in its COVID-19 recovery plan the expansion of some prisons.

Deputy Speaker and Citizen Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) party-list Rep. Bro. Eddie Villanueva said it is time to improve jails or even construct new ones in order to decongest them.

To date there are reported cases of coronavirus disease in some detention facilities.

The overcrowding will make the detainees vulnerable to the virus and other diseases especially during summer.

Villanueva said it is also impossible to implement social distancing inside jails.

“CIBAC hopes that the government will include in its COVID-19 recovery plan or in its FY 2021 National Expenditure Program, at the very least, a sizeable budgetary allocation that will significantly improve the conditions of our jails. Especially that a ‘new normal’ conduct of living which includes social distancing and strict adherence to proper hygiene is expected to be observed at all facets of communal living, uncrowding our prison facilities is a must to make sure our jails will not be hotbeds or epicenter of infections in its communities and that our persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) will be protected from contracting COVID-19 or any communicable disease for that matter,” the CIBAC lawmaker stressed.

As of 2019, penal facilities under either the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) or the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) has an average congestion rate of not less than 300 percent. 

Latest accessed data from the BuCor show that the seven penal farms under it has an average congestion rate of 314 percent, meaning a prison houses inmates three-times its capacity.

Among the most jampacked are the New Bilibid Prison with 353 percent congestion rate, Mindanao Correctional Institute for Women (CIW-Mindanao) and Davao Prison and Penal Farm which have congestion rates of 467 percent and 388 percent, respectively. The BuCor-supervised prisons are for those sentenced to serve 3-year imprisonment or more.

On the other hand, BJMP Director Allan Iral says that as of December 2019, the 467 municipal, city and district jails under its supervision nationwide has an average congestion rate of 438 percent. BJMP-supervised jails house inmates sentenced to less than 3-year imprisonment or those awaiting decision from municipal/city courts.