THE Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has again knocked on President Rodrigo Duterte’s mercy and compassion as it appeals the grant of executive clemency for some 500 old and sick prisoners at the National Bilibid Prision (NBP) in Muntilupa City.
Bro. Rudy Diamante, executive secretary of the CBCP-Episcopal Commisson on Prison and Pastoral Care(ECPPC), made the appeal on Tuesday in reiteration of an earlier promise by the President to release the old and sick inmates.
“On our part we have been trying to look at people in the govermment whom we can talk to. We were told to talk to the President because he is the one who will ultimately decide,” Diamante said in an interview with the Church-run Radio Veritas.
“Of course, he [Duterte] has made a pronouncement that he will order the release of those who are 80 years old and above and have already served 40 years in prison,” he added.
Diamante pointed out though that under the law, one should not be jailed for 40 years and should be released after 30 years whether there is an executive clemency.
He expressed confidence that Duterte would deliver his promise as a Christmas gift to the prisoners.
Earlier, Bishop Leopoldo Tumulak, chairman of the CBCP-ECPPC, also wrote to the President in behalf of the old and sick prisoners have served and suffer long enough inside the national penitentiary.
“Therefore, we would like to appeal to His Excellency to grant their plea for executive clemency,” the prelate said.
The Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) has recommended the release of hundreds of inmates, many of them with ages ranging from 75 to 90 in seven national prisons under the Bureau of Corrections.
Senate Minority Floor Leader Ralph Recto has also filed a resolution in support of the CBCP’s position, saying that freeing the sick and aged prisoners is one way also to decongest the overcrowded jails in the country.
Recto said former President Benigno Aquino 3rd had exercised his power to grant executive clemency 67 times during his six-year term, and Duterte can easily surpass it by using his pardon power.
Two government agencies are in charge of prisoners–the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), which is under the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), which is under the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The BJMP handles individuals awaiting trials and detainees who committed crimes with less than three years’ jail term, while BuCor houses those who have been sentenced to more than three years.
The bureau’s jails are 397 percent over capacity, wherein jail cells built for 18,881 detainees now hold 93,961.
The NBP, on the other hand, houses more than half of BuCor’s 41,207 prisoners. WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL