ONE is enough, two is too much, three is a crowd.
This does not hold water in the country’s jails, where the reportedly deplorable and claustrophobic conditions disprove the law of physics on the impenetrability of matter, or the inability of two bodies to occupy the same space at the same time.
The Quezon City Jail, for example, was built to accommodate 800 detainees and yet now holds more than 4,000.
For another example, the Manila Police District Integrated Jail was meant to house 595 inmates but it is occupied at present by 725.
The situation obtaining in other jails in other parts of Metro Manila, or the National Capital Region, is equally intolerable.
Taguig City, home to the ritzy enclave of Bonifacio Global City (BCG), reportedly has the worst reputation. Of the 26 inmates to have died in the past six months, 18 were detained in Taguig, according to National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Oscar Albayalde.
The inmates died of curable diseases such as tuberculosis, gastroenteritis and blood infection and cardiac arrest stemming from poor hygiene and sanitation in the Taguig and other jails in the country’s premier region, Albayalde said.
He said the population in the jails soared when the Philippine National Police (PNP) kicked off its crackdown on illegal drugs in July 2016, resulting in the arrest and detention of more than 200,000 drug suspects in just seven months, consequently flooding the Metro Manila jail cells.
The culprit here is the slow-moving criminal justice system in the Philippines where justice is not served but injustice is, and in big doses.
Walk through the corridors of the city halls of Metro Manila where many lower courts are and be not surprised why Metro Manila jails are a sure ticket to gloom and doom.
Case records are dumped outside the salas of the judges at the Manila City Hall, gathering dust, which gives away the big possibility that the computer age has skipped these courts.
At the Quezon City Hall, similar records are exposed to the elements in the corridors and probably feasted on by rats and cockroaches.
Meanwhile, new cases come in and with some libel cases alone taking eight, nine, 10 years to resolve, expect the lower courts to be adding to the piles of unresolved cases of murder, rape and homicide.
Mayors of NCR cities and town (Pateros) cannot be entirely blamed for the mess and misery that detainees find themselves in because detention centers across the country are under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, which is also responsible for the PNP and the National Police Commission, among other law-enforcement agencies.
On a broader scale, the injustice to the humanity of ordinary detainees is a reflection of the country’s discriminatory penal system.
Only a few are detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame—the PNP’s general headquarters in Quezon City—that holds the likes of drug suspect and former justice secretary and now Sen. Leila de Lima, and former senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, who are both detained on plunder charges.
The wrong message that is being sent is that the poor criminals deserve not to take a bath for days on end or properly answer the call of nature while de Lima and company, rich as they are, should be treated gingerly because they are titled and innocent until proven guilty.
A solution to decongesting the detention centers across the archipelago, particularly those in Metro Manila, is to transfer some of the inmates from the jails in Manila and Quezon City to the PNP Custodial Center.
We are not joking because we are just taking off from where Albayalde left off.
“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, not additional jail facilities,” he told the Commission on Human Rights.