By: Jennifer P. Rendon
THE bad news: Western Visayas jails suffer from 114 percent congestion rate.
But if it’s any consolation, the region has the second least congested jail facilities next to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The Commission on Audit’s (COA) 2018 annual audit report on the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) revealed that ARMM jails have a congestion rate of 39 percent.
The same report also indicated that the national jail population of 136,314 as of Dec. 31, 2018 exceeded the total ideal capacity of 25,268. It translates to a variance of 111,045 because of the total average occupancy rate of 439.47 percent.
Sadly, the number paints a bleak scenario in the penitentiary system of the Philippines which runs contrary to the requirements of the BJMP Manual in Habitat, Water, Sanitation, and Kitchen in Jails and the United Nations Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, “resulting in unhealthy living conditions of inmates caused by heavy congestion.”
The audit report states that under Paragraph 4, Chapter 1 of the BJMP Manual, the ideal habitable floor area per inmate is 4.7 square meters while the maximum number of inmates per cell is pegged at 10.
Ideally, the maximum number of bunk beds is a two-level, 5-bed unit. There must be at least one wash area for utensils and hand washing, a toilet bowl, and bath area.
But such is not the case for Philippine jails.
In Region 6, the jail population was pegged at 9,056 with a variance of 4,825 from its ideal capacity of 4,231.
Records showed that Region 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula) topped the congestion rate list at 645 percent; followed by Region 7 (Central Visayas) with 641 percent; and Region IV-A (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon or Calabarzon) at 622 percent.
High congestion rate is also noted in the National Capital Region with 588 percent; Region 3 (Central Luzon), 548 percent; Region 11 (Davao Region), 485 percent; Region 12 (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City or SOCCSKSARGEN ), 457 percent; and Region 8 (Eastern Visayas), 409 percent.
Meanwhile, Region 10 (Northern Mindanao) has a 387 percent congestion rate; Region 2 (Cagayan Valley), 323 percent; Region 1 (Ilocos Region), 302 percent; Region 5 (Bicol Region), 267 percent; Region 13 (Caraga Region), 231 percent; Region 4-B (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan or MIMAROPA), 223 percent; and Cordillera Autonomous Region, 187 percent.
“The jail population for the year increased in various months attributing to the increase in the number of drug-related cases, in the country as well as the court’s slow or no action on the pending cases due to lack of judges, postponement of hearings, and the slow disposition of criminal cases that carry the penalty of reclusion perpetual or life imprisonment,” the report said.
Other reason of increased jail populations are the non-movement of non-release on bail of detainees due to poverty.
Some cases were bailable but detainees below the poverty line cannot afford to post bail, thus remain detained.