A lawmaker is seeking the sale of the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City so that its proceeds will be used to acquire four new prison facilities to be located in Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao and the National Capital Region (NCR), which are capable of handling agriculture-based activities to help reform prisoners.
Rep. Aleta Suarez (3rd District, Quezon) said her proposal aims to put a reformative instead of a punitive policy regarding the country’s facilities.
She said the four new prison locations must be capable of handling agricultural activities so that prisoners will be trained in farming and animal husbandry which will renew them and improve their lot.
“The present situation of our penal facilities is a throwback to the 18th century that treated prisoners as animals unfit to renew themselves and rejoin society. It is also a contravention of our treaty obligations such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (UN ICCPR) and the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT),” said Suarez.
She said her House Bill 332 or the proposed “Reform of Penal Centers Act” complements Article II, Section ll of the Constitution, which provides “The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.”
The proposal is also in line with Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which provides that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” according to Suarez.
“According to the Balay Foundation, extreme overcrowding is the most punishing of doing time in the country’s jails. At the Manila City Jail and other prisons in the National Capital Region, inmates have to take turns sleeping on the floor. Herding individuals in cramped spaces is cruel, inhuman, ill, degrading, and unjust punishment.
“Overcrowding is dangerous to health and to human life. It breeds diseases, breaks down discipline and exacerbates tension. Add dirty tap water, dingy toilets, substandard meals, gang war, poorly trained guards and prison administrators, favoritism, and you have a system built for punishment, not rehabilitation,” said Suarez.
House Bill 332 provides the State shall enact a Policy of Reformation in all prison facilities in the country.
It mandates the Department of Justice, through the Bureau of Corrections, to sell the facilities and properties of the New Bilibid Prison located in Muntinlupa City to the highest possible bidder.
The proceeds from the sale of the New Bilibid Prison shall exclusively be used for the purchase of new penal colony facilities to be located one each in Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao and the NCR. These properties must be capable of handling agriculture-based activities such that prisoners will be trained in farming and animal husbandry, the bill provides. PNA