• Govt urged to act on jail ‘purgatory’


    Images of hellish conditions at an overcrowded Philippines jail triggered calls Thursday from lawmakers and rights groups for swift reforms to the penal system, which is under strain from an anti-drugs crackdown.

    AFP photographs of the Quezon City Jail, where thousands of inmates are forced to sleep on stairs or on cracked cement floors in unimaginable squalor, highlighted the crisis which is worsening under President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on crime.

    “It’s an image straight out of Dante’s ‘Purgatory’,” Human Rights Watch said, referring to the 13th century Italian writer’s description of the realm where souls await judgment.

    “Hundreds of half-naked men sprawled on the pavement in the sweltering heat, desperately trying to sleep amid the cramped chaos… It’s an actual snapshot of horrific overcrowding in the Philippines’ jails,” it added.

    The situation at Quezon City Jail is by no means isolated, the New York-based group added, with many other Filipino jails also failing to meet minimum United Nations standards for nutrition and sanitation.

    Duterte was elected by a landslide in May, largely on a pledge to clean up the streets by killing tens of thousands of criminals. Police say 402 drug suspects have been gunned down in the past month.

    Thousands more have been detained, doomed for lengthy stints in under-funded and overwhelmed jails.

    Describing the images as “terrible,” outspoken Sen. Leila de Lima said she would file a resolution in the Senate calling for a review of the state of detention facilities.

    “You can never hope to really implement any worthy programs to reform inmates if you have such decrepit, overcrowded facilities,” she said.

    The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology told AFP that P8 billion ($170 million) was needed to relieve the situation at prisons holding nearly five times their intended capacity.

    Even before Duterte’s election, the Philippines’ penal system was ranked as the third most congested in the world, according to the University of London’s Institute for Criminal Policy Research.

    There are 3,950 inmates at the Quezon City Jail, which was built six decades ago to house 800, and they are forced to engage in a relentless contest for space.

    Men take turns to sleep on the cracked cement floor of an open-air basketball court, the steps of staircases, underneath beds and in hammocks made out of old blankets.

    Even then, bodies are packed like sardines in a can, with inmates unable to fully stretch out.

    The jail’s warden Randel Latoza called for decisive action.

    “I’m glad people have seen the real conditions and realized what happens to those we send behind bars,” he told AFP. “It’s time for courts to take action.”



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    1. She will ask a resolution to review the condition of jails? Did she not know this when she was in doj? Resolution and review by our politicians will take years. Lol. Why not just build more new prisons now. Another incompetent.

    2. Sen. Leila de Lima said she would file a resolution in the Senate calling for a review of the state of detention facilities

      De Lima was in charge of the prisons the past 6 years and she didn’t do anything to improve them. If anyone is responsible for the condition of the prisons it’s her.

      Spent the past 6 years defending Aquino’s allies instead of dong her job.

    3. When the Supreme Court declared that DAP was illegal (allegedly used by BS Aquino III to bribe the Senators to convict the late former Chief Justice R. Corona … according to Jinggoy Estrada) one of the Senators , JV Ejercito if I am not mistaken , mentioned that he was willing to return the 50 million pesos given to him by BS Aquino .

      For the sake of the “Human Rights” of the prisoners living in a sub-human condition in a crowded jail … could we request Sen. Leila De Lima to ask her fellow Senators who received the “bribe money” from the “illegal DAP” of BS Aquino III ? … the congestion in most of the jails in our Country would be greatly eased by constructing new buildings using the “bribe money” collected .

      Her idea of attacking Pres. Rodrigo R. Duterte’s way of solving the problems of our Country in “aid of legislation” is too early and a waste of time and money . We have so many laws already and introducing another law would not solve the problem that needs immediate solution now .

    4. The trouble with our prison system is it deliberately creates red tape so the prisoner’s families will resort to fixers. The hellish conditions are also on purpose to keep inmates in a hostage or kidnap for ransom situation, “no pay, then suffer till you do!”

      Expedite the processing of all inmates who are overstaying, it is as simple as that, many inmates already qualify for early release, counting their good conduct allowance.

    5. Juan T. Delacruz on

      Senator De Lima should initiate a hearing in the Senate on how to get the money to build more shelters for the prisoners, instead of investigating the number of death related to war on drugs. There are still thousands of unused tents donated and was intended for the victims of typhoon Yolanda that are in storage, somewhere. These tents can be set-up in vacant lots and open areas in city jail compound to alleviate the space problems. Senator Gordon should know the location because he was once the top dog of the Philippine Red Cross

      To Senator De Lima, this type of living condition in city jail is also a human rights violation that needs your attention as soon as possible. Sana po ay ihinto mo na muna ang nagpa papogi sa camera at magtrabaho ka muna.