PACKED jails can be deadly.
At least 26 inmates in various overcrowded jails in Metro Manila have died in the past six months, according to National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Oscar Albayalde.
The victims’ deplorable living conditions led to the development of ailments that proved fatal. Albayalde said the most common diseases that led to the death of the prisoners were tuberculosis, cardiac arrest, blood infection and gastroenteritis.
Of the 26 prisoners who died, 18 were detained in Taguig City while six were held at the Manila Police District (MPD) jail.
Albayalde admitted that poor conditions in jails affect the health of detainees. He said the population in jails ballooned when the Philippine National Police (PNP) launched its campaign against illegal drugs last year.
In just seven months, Albayalde said that more than 20,000 people were arrested, swamping police detention centers in Metro Manila.
For instance, the MPD Integrated Jail, which can only accommodate up to 595 people, now holds 725 detainees.
Albayalde inspected police detention centers in the metropolis after news of the “secret jail” in Tondo, Manila came out.
He admitted that all of the detention facilities that he visited were packed that detainees had to sleep sitting down.
“The jails we went to are really overcrowded. We saw the people detained there were sitting while sleeping, and when we asked them how they get something to eat, they said they chip in,” Albayalde said.
“We saw the scarcity and the lack of space in the jails of different police stations. From the time we launched the war on drugs in July, the detainees did not just double. In Metro Manila, we counted from July 1 (2016), there were 200,208 arrested,” he told reporters.
Albayalde said the number of detainees in police stations would be reduced if courts issued commitment orders for the transfer of detainees to facilities under the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).
But BJMP officials said that their detention centers are also overcrowded.
The Quezon City Jail, for instance, was built to house 800 people. However, it is packed with more than 4,000 inmates.
Albayalde called on other government agencies such as the Commission on Human Rights, Department of the Interior and Local Government and local government units to coordinate with the PNP to improve the living conditions inside jails.
“We need to work with each other. If we depend on the PNP fund, I think we might have a difficult time because once our fund is released it is already allocated. And most likely it will only include the construction of new police stations and not additional jail facilities,” he said.
To address the dire situation, the Quezon City council has ratified an agreement entered into by the city and the BJMP to put up a new jail in Payatas.
Through City Resolution 7077-2017 introduced by Councilors Alexis Herrera and Franz Pumaren, the council approved the Deed of Usufruct entered into by the city government and the BJMP designating a 2.4-hectare property in Payatas as the site of the new jail.
The deed was signed by Mayor Herbert Bautista and BJMP chief Supt. Serafin Barreto Jr. in August 2016.
Under the agreement, the BJMP will construct the buildings, structures and facilities. A health center, rehabilitation facility, fire station, food establishments and lodging area for visitors will also be established.
The new city jail is expected to accommodate 8,000 inmates.
“We are very serious in our efforts to relocate the inmates in a facility that is compliant to human rights standards,” Bautista said in a statement.
“While this is a national project, the local government is very dedicated and committed to support the BJMP with their initiatives to improve jail conditions. We hope the BJMP will do its share,” he added.
WITH DEMPSEY REYES AND KENNETH HERNANDEZ