Best selling author Dan Brown got it wrong. It is not the capital city of Manila that is the gates of hell.
The true gates of hell—perhaps even hell on earth itself—would have to be the country’s network of jails and prisons where minors are thrown in alongside adults, hygienic practices non-existent, inmates regularly under fed, and worst of all, where the innocent and the first offenders share the same space as hardened habitual criminals.
This may finally change after President Benigno Aquino 3rd signed into law the Bureau of Corrections Modernization Act.
Without fanfare and with a minimum of attention paid to the new law, the Philippines’ penal system will finally move out of the dark ages and into, hopefully, an era where prisoners can be rehabilitated, instead of perpetually and excessively punished.
Indeed, a silent policy of retribution has been in force in the country’s jails and prisons since time immemorial.
Anyone who has ever seen the inside of a typical incarceration facility will know that they can be places unfit for human beings. With a few exceptions, the prisoners live in abject squalor and misery.
It is no wonder why prisoners are rarely rehabilitated, but become even more bitter and angry after doing their time.
It is this correctional system that results in too many repeat offenders, since the convicts who have been set free did not develop any skills that would have made their reentry into society any easier.
Too many bills signed into law end up being toothless tigers because no funds are provided for their implementation. We pray that the BuCor modernization act will not meet this fate.
Also, some laws end up weaker than originally intended because their implementing rules have been watered down. This, too, is another fate that the new law must not face.
The country’s judicial system is admittedly far from perfect. In countless cases, poor men and women who commit crimes are meted harsher penalties than those who have more in life.
The new law does not cover such injustices, but at least anyone convicted of crimes will no longer have to end up incarcerated in—with apologies to Dan Brown—the gates of hell.