In 2003, the Supreme Court of the Philippines, with the financial assistance of the United Nations Development Programme, released “The Final Report of the National Survey of Inmates & Institutional Assessment”, the salient findings of which, for legal research purposes, are digested below, as follows:
The survey of inmates is a national study covering representative samples from persons in confinement in national penitentiaries and in provincial, district, city and municipal jails. The survey determines the level of general knowledge of and understanding by inmates of their rights, legal protection and remedies, and the status of their cases. The survey also ascertains the attitudes and perception of inmates towards the justice system and adequacy of information on the operation of the justice system, rights and entitlements, legal remedies, and complaint/redress mechanisms.
The institutional assessment component of the project focuses on the review of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and Parole and Probation Administration (PPA) which are among the key agencies of the national government involved in the administration and operation of the Philippine Corrections System.
The BJMP, which is under the DILG, directs, supervises and controls district, city and municipal jails nationwide. It is responsible for the safe custody and rehabilitation of inmates who are convicted with short-term prison sentence (i.e., 3 years or less) and those who are awaiting trial or final judgment by the court.
The PPA administers the parole and probation system of the country. It conducts
investigation of inmates applying for parole, probation and executive clemency, and supervises and monitors those who have already been released from incarceration through the different early release schemes.
The demographic data of the inmates from National Capital Region (NCR) are: Mean age is 30; median age is 29; Single; High school – undergraduate; Roman Catholic; Speaks Tagalog at home; Born in the same place where detained or in other Luzon provinces; Employed before detention; Mean duration from the date of arrest until
last hearing of case is 1.1 years.
On knowledge of any agency that helps the poor when they have cases in court and when they cannot afford to pay lawyers for the purpose, the survey indicates that only one out of five inmates in city jails within NCR and the national prisons know that such mechanism exists. Inmates in jails outside NCR likewise know that there are agencies that provide legal assistance. However, those that are in other jails are not aware of any agency which can provide them legal assistance. Only one-fourth of the total number of inmates surveyed knows of any office where one could lodge his complaints against delays in the prosecution of cases in court.
Generally, inmates are aware of certain legal remedies and options that are available to them such as the right to bail, serving of search warrant, right to legal counsel, and presence of laws and rules on the protection of juvenile offenders and women. However, about 53% male and 60% female inmates in the national prisons do not know their right against involuntary admission. A big percentage of inmates indicate that they are not aware of the appropriate procedures to follow upon detention.
According to the survey, the major barriers to equitable access to justice by inmates are: Scarcity of legal services/assistance for prisoners and detainees who lack sufficient income; Complexity of the judicial system, delay in legal proceedings and poor quality of information about legal processes; Lack of knowledge and understanding by inmates of the justice system, which includes widespread distrust and low levels of confidence of the justice system.
There are 1,344 provincial, city, district and municipal prisons and jails situated all over the country.
The agencies involved in the confinement/safekeeping and correction of offenders are the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) for national penitentiaries; Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) for city, municipal and district jails; Philippine National Police (PNP) which directly runs about 61% of the total jail facilities within the jurisdiction of the BJMP; the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) which maintains regional rehabilitation centers for juvenile delinquents; and the Provincial Governments which exercise supervision and control over provincial and sub-provincial jails for offenders convicted with a prison sentence of six months and one day to three years and detainees whose cases are being tried by regional trial courts.
The process of restoration is a component of the Philippine correction and rehabilitation system. It involves the mainstreaming/re-integration of rehabilitated or qualified offenders in the society as productive and law abiding citizens. The Parole and Probation Administration (PPA) is a focal agency in the restoration process as it is primarily tasked to administer the parole and probation system of the country.
The Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) is, on the other hand, authorized by law to grant parole to qualified prisoners, and recommends to the President of the Philippines the grant of executive clemency in the form of reprieve, commutation of sentence, conditional pardon and absolute pardon
The survey identified the following issues on the correction system, focusing on the interventions of the BJMP and PPA: Diffusion of jail management and supervision functions creates inefficiencies in the administration of the corrections system; BJMP’s direction towards centralization and nationalization of all local jails is not consistent with the government policy of deepening devolution, enhancing capacity of the LGUs, and people empowerment; Sharing of responsibilities between BJMP and PNP dilutes accountability and undermines the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs because shared accountability is zero accountability. The BJMP and PNP have no principal-agent relationship; Imbalance or disparity in the custodial force and jail population poses threats to
the security of jails and the community at large; Jail congestion is central to jail operation and management problems as it leads to other problems, including human rights abuses.
The survey identifies the policy implications on the issues on access to justice of inmates are as follows: Need to address judicial process delays and the lack of information on the government’s legal aid program, remedies, rights and entitlements, and legal aid procedures; Need to reaffirm inmates’ rights to information; Need for a comprehensive program to reorient/re-tool and sensitize law enforcers, jail guards, and public lawyers on access justice issues and the basic rights/entitlements of prisoners and detainees; Need to rebuild inmates’ trust and confidence on the justice system.
The development and implementation of an integrated system of correction and rehabilitation involves the following: Establishment and implementation of a strong oversight mechanism to be responsible for the formulation of overall policy framework on correction and rehabilitation of inmates, as well as strict enforcement of national and international standards on prison and jail management and human rights of inmates; Development of a unified and coherent set of policies, standards, rules and procedures on prison and jail management and parole, probation and pardons administration; Highly decentralized operations on correction and rehabilitation with direct delivery of services lodged primarily with LGUs; Strong public-private sector partnership and community involvement in correction and rehabilitation activities.
“Access to justice” refers to the ability of persons from disadvantaged groups to seek and obtain a legal remedy in conformity with relevant international human rights standards. Equal access means that such ability is not limited or constrained by gender, ethnic, political sympathy, religious preference, socio-economic class, age, legal freedom restriction, or physical incapacity. In the Philippines, disadvantaged groups include women, minors, persons with physical/mental impairment, indigenous groups, urban poor, rural poor, prisoners and detainees and minorities. Legal remedies include quasi-judicial and judicial services available to citizens, through public and private justice institutions, to resolve social conflicts.
Poverty, social exclusions and marginalization as the root causes of the country’s peace and order problems. Lawlessness, internal and social conflicts, and criminality impede investments, wealth creation, and productivity, thereby adversely affecting the country’s economic development and growth.
A major strategy to enhance peace and order is to reform the five pillars of the criminal justice system, i.e., courts, prosecution, law enforcement, corrections and the community, while reorienting state and non-state actors on their obligations to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. There is a need for better coordination and convergence of the five pillars of the criminal justice system. This requires comprehensive, all encompassing and well coordinated reform program that attends to the different components of the system which are handled by various organizational actors.
The Supreme Court of the Philippines, together with other key stakeholders, is
currently implementing the Action Program on Judicial Reform (APJR), 2001-2006, comprising of wide-ranging and comprehensive reform strategies intended to enhance judicial systems and procedures, structure, technology, financial management and fiscal autonomy for the Judiciary. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is pursuing complementary reforms in the “other pillars of justice” under its
jurisdiction. This will involve the strengthening of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), National Prosecution Service (NPS), Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), Board of Pardons and Parole, and the Parole & Probation Administration (PPA).
The following concepts may serve as guides:
• EXPRESS LINKAGE TO RIGHTS – The rights-based approach creates normative links to human rights which are universal, indivisible, interdependent
and interrelated. It integrates the norms, standards and principles of the international human rights system into the plans, policies and processes of development. The norms and standards are those contained in the UN Charter,
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent human rights conventions/treaties and instruments, subscribed to by the Philippines and embodied in the Constitution and several legislations. The principles include equality and equity, accountability, empowerment and participation.
• ACCOUNTABILITY – Human rights are legally enforceable entitlements of claimholders which must be respected, protected and fulfilled by duty-holders. The rights-based approach intends to raise levels of accountability in the development process by identifying claim-holders (and their entitlements) and corresponding duty-holders (and their obligations). Duty-holders include the full range of relevant actors: individuals, States, local organizations and authorities, private companies, aid donors and international institutions. The rights based approach calls for the development of adequate laws, policies, institutions, administrative procedures and practices, and mechanisms of redress and accountability that can deliver on entitlements, respond to denial and violations, and ensure accountability. They call for the translation of universal standards into
locally determined benchmarks for measuring progress and enhancing accountability. States must have both the political will and the means to ensure the realization of human rights, and they must put in place the necessary legislative, administrative, and institutional mechanisms required to achieve that aim. States are required to take immediate steps for the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights. On the other hand, States are bound to respect civil and political rights, to ensure respect for them and to take the necessary steps to put them into effect. The international community is also duty bound to provide effective international cooperation in response to shortages of resources and capacities in developing countries.
• EMPOWERMENT – People as claim-holders are beneficiaries, directors and center of development. The primary objective of the rights-based approach is to give people the power, capacities, capabilities and access needed to change their own lives, improve their own communities and influence their own destinies.
• PARTICIPATION AND ACCESS – The rights-based approach advocates for
active, free and meaningful participation from communities, civil society, minorities, indigenous peoples, women and others. It gives emphasis on accessibility issues, including access to development process, institutions, information and redress or complaints mechanisms.
• NON-DISCRIMINATION AND ATTENTION TO VULNERABLE GROUPS – Nondiscrimination means that that all persons are able to enjoy human rights on an equal basis, and in their totality. It entails fairness, justice and impartiality in the guarantee of fundamental rights and freedoms. The rights-based approach is
giving particular attention to such issues, particularly in relation to vulnerable groups, such as women, minorities, indigenous peoples and prisoners whose rights often discriminated and threatened. There is a need identify who are most vulnerable in locality, what are their characteristics, and what issues threaten their rights and entitlements, and safeguards that needs to be incorporated in development instruments. Development data need to be disaggregated, as far as
possible, by race, religion, ethnicity, language, sex and other categories of human rights concern.
Access to justice may be effectively achieved through a system of justice that is independent, accessible, efficient, impartial and worthy of public of public trust:
• INDEPENDENCE. Institutional and individual independence of correctional agencies is key in the establishment of truth and dispensation of justice.
• ACCESS. Access means geographical access, affordability of legal services by
the poor, impartial investigation and law enforcement particularly in cases between the poor and the rich or between the politically powerful and one who is not, more speedy provision of services through more efficient and speedy investigation processes, and adequate and preserved evidence.
• SPEED, QUALITY AND IMPARTIALITY. The resolution of a case, which will be
dependent on the establishment of the truth, should be such that the person seeking redress does not incur undue moral and economic loss due to the delay of the litigation process or the quality of the investigation, prosecution and legal services.
• INTEGRITY. Integrity at institutional and individual levels is important in enforcing the law and in establishing facts for appropriate prosecution and resolution of cases. Integrity means being loyal to the rules and procedures that govern the processing of a case and having capacity against undue political influence.
Organization principles define certain universal truths about the functioning of a wellperforming organization. These principles are applied in the conduct of the institutional capacity assessment. They include the following:
• DOING MORE AND BETTER WITH LESS. Within the context of severe resource constraints, effective organizations are able to leverage their limited resources to high impact activities.
• DECENTRALIZATION AND BETTER OVERALL CONTROL OF OPERATIONS. Decentralization improves the efficiency and responsiveness of agencies by bringing down decision-making authority, responsibility, resources and accountability to the field, enabling quick and relevant response to client needs.
• SEAMLESS EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL FUNCTIONAL AND PROCESS SYNCHRONIZATION. Functions and operating systems among the five pillars are inextricably related and connected with one another. Trial of cases cannot start if the prosecution is not prepared. Law enforcement agencies cannot provide adequate crime information without data inputs from the courts and the other pillars of justice. The extent and quality of inter- and intra-system integration influences the quality of justice that can be delivered to the litigants.
• INFORMATION-BASED DECISION-MAKING. The role of information and communication systems and technologies in decision making for each of the identified pillars is critical. Also, the capacity to seamlessly integrate operations within and among agencies cannot be made possible without information technology.
• ACCOUNTABILITY, TRANSPARENCY AND PUBLIC EDUCATION. Accountability is to be answerable for acts or decisions and the consequences thereof. Public accountability cannot happen if the public is not educated on the operations of agencies for which they will be held accountable, if the operating systems of agencies are not capable of clearly pinpointing answerability, if there is no verifiability of information, and if information is not structured to allow for assessment.
• CONTINUING LEARNING AND IMPROVEMENT CAPACITY. Capacity for continuing learning and improvement is the ability to continuously explore new perspectives and operational technologies and methodologies, and to discover new knowledge that will improve institutional and individual capacity to perform agency functions. Capacities for continuing learning and improvement are indicated in the presence of research, planning, and training activities, among others.
Criminal procedures in the Philippines are contained in established rules and regulations governing the operations of the Five Pillars of Justice. The processes involved in the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases comprise the following:
• Police Investigation
• Preliminary Investigation
• Issuance of the Prosecutor’s Resolution
• Filing of the Information in Court
• Arrest of the Accused and Posting of Bail
• Arraignment [Plea of Guilty or Not Guilty to the Offense Charged]
• Sentencing or Judgment
Correction and rehabilitation. Correction and rehabilitation is the basic reason why offenders are kept in prisons and jails. These involve the implementation of programs or introduction of interventions for offenders in order to better prepare them to become productive members of society upon their release from prisons/jails. Specifically, correction and rehabilitation for inmates include the following:
• Provision of opportunities to develop proper work skills and acquire education and training, which will translate into economic self-sufficiency upon release thereby reducing recidivism;
• Engagement of inmates in meaningful work assignments, particularly in penal farms and other productive labor, thereby helping to defray the tax burden of their incarceration; and
• Provision of counseling, life skills training, and spiritual guidance services to give inmates opportunities to take new directions in their lives.
Restoration. This involves the process of reformation and reintegration of offenders in the society. An inmate may be released upon his acquittal or grant of bail through court decision or upon the expiration of his sentence. The government has also instituted several measures providing for “early release” of offenders, such as (1) release on recognizance; (2) full time credit, particularly of preventive detention; (3) probation; (5) parole (6) pardon and executive clemency. These interventions are also being considered by the government as effective jail decongestion measures.
The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) is an integral bureau of the DOJ mandated to carry out the institutional rehabilitation program of the government for national
offenders, or those who are sentenced to more than three years of imprisonment,
and to ensure their safe custody. BuCor maintains 7 national penitentiaries with a
total prison population of 25,002. National penitentiaries, having an overall capacity of 19,600 inmates, are congested by 28%. Congestion problem is more glaring in the New Bilibid Prison which maintains 65% of the total prison population.
The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) is mandated to direct,
supervise and control the administration and operation of all district, city and
municipal jails nationwide. Jails differ from national penitentiaries. Jails are facilities located in provinces, cities and municipalities used to confine offenders who receive short-term sentences (in the Philippines, sentence of three years or less) and individuals awaiting trail and final judgment. A district jail is a cluster of small jails, each having a monthly average population of ten or less inmates, and is located within the vicinity of the court. Jail clustering is a strategy which has been adopted by the BJMP to save on administrative and operational expenses.
After twelve years of existence as a separate agency under the DILG, the BJMP still share this responsibility with the Philippine National Police (PNP), which is directly running about 61% of the total jail facilities within the jurisdiction of the BJMP. The involvement of the police in penology and jail management is a temporary arrangement considering the limited capacity of the BJMP. The protracted turn-over of all city and municipal jails to the BJMP creates negative outcomes particularly in the implementation of behavioral modification and rehabilitation programs for inmates, considering that the core competencies required for these programs are inbuilt with the BJMP.
The PPA is a focal agency in the restoration process as it is primarily tasked to
administer the parole and probation system of the country. It performs a dual role: (1) it ensures that only deserving inmates are granted parole, probation and pardon, by providing the approving authorities sufficient and factual information on the qualifications of applicant-inmate; (2) it ensures that inmates who are granted parole, probation or pardon will abide by the terms and conditions stipulated by the approving authorities. The BPP, on the other hand, is specifically authorized by law to grant parole to qualified prisoners. It likewise recommends to the President of the Philippines the grant of executive clemency in the form of reprieve, commutation of sentence, conditional pardon and absolute pardon.
The following major institutional issues in the Philippine corrections systems have
* Prisons and jails in the country are generally in bad conditions. The New Bilibid Prisons was constructed in 1935. Since that time, no major renovations have been done on the prison facilities and its administration building. Jails are similarly in dire need of proper maintenance and repair. Furniture, equipment and various facilities in both jails and prisons badly need replacement.
* There are several agencies which are concerned with similar correction and
rehabilitation functions. For example, the DOJ, DILG and DSWD, and the provincial governments have similar mandates relative to the management and supervision of prisons, jails and rehabilitation centers.
* Lack of technology to properly maintain inmates’ records and process documents for their immediate release is a prevailing situation. Limited use of information technology to support investigation and validation of information on inmates with pertinent agencies like the courts, prosecutors’ offices and law enforcement agencies, to back up recommendations for early release of qualified offenders, and/or for providing them with other needed services, impede correction and rehabilitation programs.
* Improving administrative management capacity and resources of agencies involved in the corrections pillar directly impacts on their operations in terms of improved capacity to develop policies, programs, project, and activities for correction and rehabilitation of offenders, address congestion in jails and prisons, and for effective operations management and strategic planning.
* Common to practically all government agencies, this problem may be difficult to
address. But an assessment of the remuneration of personnel involved in the corrections pillar must be taken in the light of severe resource constraints and the
priority that government gives to the peace and order sector as a factor of economic development.
* Inadequate training has been cited as one of the many reasons for inefficiencies and deficiencies in the agencies under the corrections pillar. Specifically, there is need to train correction officers, probation officers, and prisons officers. Inadequate training facilities and equipment is a concomitant issue that adversely affects the conduct of necessary training programs to upgrade and develop the expertise of the key personnel involved in the corrections pillar.
Except for those limitations necessitated by the fact of incarceration, prisoners and detainees retain the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in national and international human rights instruments. These rights include the following:
• Right to be treated in a humane manner;
• Right to fair trial with adequate and free legal assistance;
• Right to be protected from cruel, inhumane, degrading treatment and
punishment, including sexual violence and other forms of torture;
• Right to be kept in official government civilian prisons and to be protected from
being imprisoned in unofficial places of detention or in military custody;
• Right to appear in public before a legally-constituted court within a short time
after their arrest;
• Right to fair and humane treatment which enables the maintenance of self
• Right to a prison program which enhances their social and intellectual abilities;
• Right to separate living arrangements in prison in accordance with the categories of gender, age, and reasons for imprisonment;
• Right to be held separately from convicted prisoners;
• Right to be segregated from other prisoners (for political prisoners);
• Right to communicate with their families and to maintain familial relationships;
• Right to free legal assistance.
The average length of time spent in prison before a decision is made is estimated at 1.1 years. About 34% of the total respondent-inmates in this type of jail waited for more than one year (up to maximum of 8 years) until the last hearing of their cases is made. Inmates in city jails outside NCR waited for an average of 1.2 years from the date of their incarceration to the last hearing of their case. Of the surveyed inmates, 37.6% spent more than one year (up to maximum of 7 years) in jail until the last hearing of their case is made.
The waiting time from incarceration to the last hearing of cases of inmates in provincial jails is an average of 3.1 years. Of these inmates, 16% spent more than 5 years in jail (up to maximum of 22 years) until the last hearing of their respective cases.
From the date the inmates in national prisons were incarcerated, they spent an average of 3.3 years inside the penitentiaries before they attended the last hearing of their cases. About 71.5% of the inmates were held in prisons for more than one year until the last hearing of their cases.
For inmates in jails outside NCR, the estimated length of time spent from the date of arrest to date of last hearing was computed at a minimum of 4 days to a maximum of 7 years, or an average of 1.3 years. About 40% of the respondent-inmates spent more than one year in jails until the last hearing of their cases.
Inmates in provincial jails, on the other hand, spent an average of 3 years in jail/prison from the time of arrest to the last hearing of their cases. It is important to note that about 16% of the total inmates spent more than 5 years (up to a maximum of 22 years) in provincial jails until the last hearing of their cases.
On inmates’ knowledge on availability of free legal services to poor litigants from any institutions, the survey results reveal that among the inmates in city jails within NCR and those in national prisons, one out of every five knows that such services and agencies that extend help to poor exist. However, there are more inmates in these jails/prisons who do not know any office or agency that could help them on their legal requirements. Inmates in city jails outside NCR and in provincial jails have better knowledge on the existence of any agencies/institutions that provide free legal assistance to the poor. It is quite interesting to know that there is a higher percentage of women inmates in national prisons who are aware that there are several agencies that provide legal aid.
The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) is the government agency that provides free legal services to the poor or disadvantaged groups, to ensure equal protection of the law. Based on the results of the survey, more than 50% of inmates, both male and female, in the city jails outside NCR, in the provincial jails, and in national prisons know of the existence of PAO and its available services. Inmates have learned of such information from the Department of Justice or the courts when they were being arraigned. Co-inmates also provide information on the matter. Around 56% of the inmates (both male and female) from city jails within NCR have reported to have no knowledge about PAO.
The BJMP was created as line bureau of the Department of the Interior and Local
Government by virtue of RA 6975, which took effect on January 2, 1991. It is
mandated to direct, supervise and control the administration and operation of all
district, city and municipal jails nationwide. The forerunner organization of the BJMP was the Office of the Jail Management and Penology (OJMP), a staff unit under the defunct PC/INP. The BJMP has clear and comprehensive statements of objectives in undertaking its legal mandate, which includes the explicit adoption of the norms, standards, and principles captured in the UN conventions/treaties and instruments. These objectives are as follows:
• Improve the living conditions of offenders in accordance with accepted standards
set by the United Nations for the treatment of prisoners and detainees;
• Enhance the rehabilitation and reformation of offenders in preparation for their
eventual reintegration to the mainstream of society upon release; and
• To provide and develop professionalized jail services.
Based on its rules and regulations, the Bureau undertakes the following functions:
• Formulate policies and guidelines on the administration of all district, city and
municipal jails nationwide;
• Formulate and implement policies for the programs of correction, rehabilitation
and treatment of inmates;
• Plan and program funds for the subsistence allowance of inmates; and
• Conduct researches, develop and implement plans and programs for the
improvement of jail services throughout the country.
The BJMP started operation in 1991 with an initial personnel complement of 500 to man all its offices nationwide. As of 2001, the manpower complement of the Bureau has grown to 6,382 personnel. The current workforce is composed of 670 officers, 5,641 non-officers and 71 non-uniformed personnel. Of this number, 85% are performing substantive mission-critical functions while the remainder is handling administrative functions.
2.3.3 Based on the BJMP Rules and Regulations, entry to the jail system is done through a commitment order from the court or any other competent authority consigning a person to a jail for confinement. The following processes are involved in the management of jails:
• Reception, classification and discipline of inmates
• Custody, security and control, including movement and transfer of prisoners and detainees
• Rehabilitation, including the provision of treatment program, health services,
education and training, religious services, guidance and counseling services,
provision for recreation and sports, and implementation of work programs.
Effective jail management begins with a well-planned and orderly reception of inmates, which will provide initial impression of the correctional process. The procedures for the reception of inmates are as follows:
• Preliminaries, which involves ensuring integrity and completeness of inmates
records related to his commitment, and conduct of physical search for contrabands, turn-over of inmates cash and personal property for and other bodily marks;
• Conduct of medical examination and preparation of inmate’s medical record
• Conduct of social case study by a social worker, as basis for the inmate’s
classification and proper segregation
• Provision of jail clothing for convicted inmates (detainees may be allowed to wear civilian clothes)
• Conduct of briefing on jail rules and regulations
• Preparation of prison record which shall be maintained by the Warden
• Assignment of quarter
Each jail has a Classification Board, chaired by the Assistant Warden. The Board is tasked to determine the work assignment, type of supervision and degree of custody and restriction that must be applied to an inmate. Inmates are required to appear before the Classification Board to discuss the rehabilitation program of the jail.
Classification of inmates refers to their grouping according to sentence, gender, age, nationality, health, criminal records, among others.
A Disciplinary Board is organized and maintained by jails to investigate and hear
disciplinary cases involving any inmate who violates jail rules and regulations. The Board is authorized to impose disciplinary punishments ranging from reprimand to solitary confinement. The BJMP Rules and Regulations explicitly prohibit imposition of punishments that would violate the human rights of inmates. Discipline is central to the rehabilitation of offenders while in jails. However, while inmates must abide by institutional rules, they also establish their own rules for themselves, which form part of the so called “prison subculture”. This subculture has its own status structure and hierarchy of authority. In some jails, inmates fear the reprisals for rule violations under this prison subculture than formal administrative rules and punishments. The influence of this subculture is probably the reason why some prohibited acts of inmates are already openly allowed/tolerated in some jails.
The BJMP, PNP, BuCor, DSWD and the provincial governments are involved in the administration of the corrections system. While existing laws, rules and regulations are quite clear in delineating the responsibilities of the agencies concerned, prevailing situations indicate disorganization. There are national prisoners who are continually confined in jails. Youthful offenders are immersed with adult inmates.
Several measures have been proffered to achieve the appropriate synchronization, coordination and convergence of the currently fragmented structure of the corrections system to address existing dysfunctions. A previous measure to address such fragmentation problem was directed under Executive Order No. 324 dated 12April 1996 that created a Review Committee of Corrections System (RCCS). The body was chaired by the DOJ Secretary with the different government agencies concerned with correction activities and representatives from NGOs. RCCS recommended the creation of a Bureau of Correctional Services under the DOJ or the DILG, integrating in such agency all the national penitentiaries, provincial, subprovincial, district, city and municipal jails. The PPA and BPP will be maintained as separate attached agencies of the DOJ. This recommendation of the Committee deviates from an earlier proposal of the correction agencies to create a Department of Corrections, an organizational model for corrections system patterned after those of the United States, England and certain Scandinavian countries. The proposed Department will integrate all correction activities, including parole, pardon and probation. The Committee however argued that the creation of a department runs counter to the government’s streamlining thrust.
An integrated correction system calls for stronger partnership between the national government and local government units. The Local Government Code of 1991 (RA 7160) mandates the implementation of a system of decentralization whereby the local government units are given more powers, authority, responsibilities and resources to enable them attain their fullest development as self-reliant communities and thus make them more effective partners in the attainment of national goals. Under the Code, the Sangguniang Bayan (legislative body of the municipality), Sangguniang Panlungsod (legislative body of the city), and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (legislative body of the province) are authorized to, among others, enact/approve ordinances that will ensure the efficient and effective delivery of basic services and facilities in their respective areas of jurisdiction. They are mandated under the Code to establish and provide for the maintenance and improvement of jails and detention centers, institute a sound jail management program, and appropriate funds for the subsistence of detainees and convicted prisoners in the municipality, city, and province. At present, LGUs are already extending support to the BJMP in terms of additional budget and subsidies for inmates, transportation support for court hearings, free medical services and medicines, and putting up of livelihood projects. LGUs are also providing additional monetary and non-monetary benefits to jail personnel, initiating the construction, repair and maintenance of jail facilities, donating lots and equipment, and taking on part of the cost of jail operations.
With persisting deficiencies in jail personnel, which complicate problems such as
congestion and lack of equipment, it is easier for inmates to bolt out of jail. There are about 704 escapees from 1997 to 2001. While the BJMP pursues vigorous efforts to recapture escapees, only 61.6% of fugitives are retrieved (Table 4-4). This means that 4 out of 10 inmates who bolted of jail are never recaptured for various reasons. Based on 2002 data, about 92% of escapes occurred while inmates are under custody or within jail facility, while 8% escaped under escort or outside the jail facility. Ironically, one of the most common modality of escape is by “passing through the main gate unnoticed.” Incidence of escapes and the low recovery rate is indicative of BJMP’s poor performance in custody, security and control services.
Jail population in the National Capital Region (NCR) accounts for about 34% of the total inmates in jails nationwide. Based on the July 2002 data of the BJMP, NCR jails, numbering 22 in all, suffer from an average congestion rate of 123% Foremost among these overcrowded jails is the Manila City Jail where congestion rate is estimated at 280%.
Based on BJMP’s records on Manila City Jail, there is an increase of 233% in the
number of inmates who died in year 2002 compared to 2001. During the aforesaid period congestion rate increased from 186% to 218% on the average. There are also inmates who are sick of various ailments, which include psychiatric problems, pulmonary tuberculosis, and skin disorder, among others. BJMP is attributing the increase in mortality rate primarily to jail congestion/overcrowding. Contributing to this is malnutrition due to inadequate and improper food supply to inmates, and insufficiency of budget for the growing health care needs of inmates.
International and national human rights instruments provide guarantees the
fundamental rights of prisoners and detainees. Despite all these guarantees, human rights abuses persist in prisons and jails (CHR, 1993). These include the denial of the rights to counsel and speedy trial, illegal/arbitrary arrest/detention, torture, maltreatment/physical injuries, sexual harassment/abuse against chastity, and deprivation of the right to basic services. More recently, the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) has documented 18 cases of torture involving 59 individuals for the year 2002, which will are now added to the 6,340 persons subjected to torture since February 1974 (de Mesa, 2003). In September 2002, The Peoples Recovery, Empowerment and Development Assistance Foundation, Inc. (PREDA), an NGO on human rights promotion and protection, documented cases where juvenile inmates suffer from human rights abuses, such as arbitrary and illegal detention, denial of rights to bail and legal assistance, incarceration together with adult inmates, and physical abuses including torture and inhuman treatment. The Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC), in a separate study conducted on children in conflict with the law and the juvenile justice system, suggested that selected incidents of violation of the
rights of some children arrested, investigated and tried before the courts tend to
indicate that there may be more of these incidents in practice occurring at various
stages of the juvenile justice process. The persistence of these human rights abuses highlights a serious discrepancy between the law and its application within the criminal justice system (TFDP, 2003).
Philippine jails and prison are operated and funded through public revenues as
government assumes the primary responsibility of administering the corrections and rehabilitation system. With inmates’ population steadily growing at 9.4% average annual growth rate, pressures on the national coffer and BJMP organizational resources to meet growing service requirements are increasing. BJMP must explore ways to optimize its scarce resources.
A step in the right direction is the clustering of jails. BJMP recently initiated a
restructuring of existing local jails system by doing away with the municipal, city and district jail concept. Instead, the Bureau will construct strategically located district jails. This scheme is expected to result in less overhead cost and optimum use of personnel and resources for the rehabilitation of inmates. BJMP is envisioning cutting down the existing 1,223 district, city and municipal jails, to 229 district jail facilities.
The PPA was created under Executive Order No. 292 (Administrative Code of 1987) date July 25, 1987, replacing the then Probation Administration and continuing its functions. The Probation Administration was created under Presidential Decree No. 968 dated July 24, 1976 to promote the correction and rehabilitation of offenders through personalized and community-based treatment, provide opportunities for their reformation and reintegration into the community, and prevent the commission of offenses. PPA administers the parole and probation system under PD 968, as amended, and exercises general supervision over all offenders who were released through probation, parole and pardon. The PPA further promotes the correction and rehabilitation of said offenders. PPA undertakes the following functions under its investigation mandate:
• Conduct character investigation of petitioners/applicants for probation referred for evaluation by the courts;
• Conduct studies on the petitioner’s antecedents, mental and physical conditions, character, socio-economic status, criminal records, family and educational background and other aspects of his life;
• Submit to the court a post-sentence investigation report, which will be the basis
for granting or denying probation; and Conduct pre-parole and executive clemency investigation and submission of recommendations to the Board of Pardons and Parole.
3.4.3 PPA undertakes an investigation on the character of an inmate-petitioner for probation, parole or executive clemency, including his antecedents, mental and physical conditions, socio-economic status, criminal records, family and educational background. It prepares a Post-Sentence Investigation Report (PSIR) for the purpose, and submits this document with its findings and recommendations to the trial court with regard to a probation request, or to the BPP for consideration on requests for parole and executive clemency. The Board accordingly endorses for the President’s final decision its recommendation on executive clemency.
3.4.4 The investigation of petitions for probation comprises about 90% of the total workload of the agency, with only 10% comprising investigation activities relative to requests for parole and executive clemency. The PPA however experiences annual backlogs in investigation function, as indicated in its performance reports.
3.4.5 One primary operational issue is difficulty in coordination with other pertinent agencies like the courts, the police, barangays, National Bureau of Investigation and the prosecutors’ offices criminal records of inmates have to be verified. In certain field units of these agencies, records are not well maintained. This makes PPA’s work more tedious. The situation calls for an installation of computer-based information system among these agencies.
The following reform implications have been identified for the PPA considering the capacity assessment indicated above:
• Full decentralization of functions (i.e. including those on administrative and
• Improvement of the internal monitoring system of PPA
• Strengthening of developmental research activities to provide needed support for the development of strategic plans, policies and programs on clients’
• Installation of strategic and development planning, budgeting and performance
• Prioritization of expenditures for IT equipment
It may be concluded from the survey conducted that inmates suffer from the following major barriers to equitable access to justice:
• Scarcity of legal services/assistance for prisoners and detainees who lack
• Complexity of the judicial system, delay in legal proceedings and poor quality of
information about legal processes
• Lack of knowledge and understanding by inmates of the justice system, which
includes widespread distrust and low levels of confidence of the justice system
An appropriate correction and rehabilitation program must take into consideration the characteristics of the direct beneficiaries. Based on the survey conducted, a typical inmate is literate, functional and productive as indicated by his educational
attainment and employment before incarceration. It may also be inferred from the
data that a typical inmate is a head of a family and his incarceration deprives that
family a primary source of livelihood, thereby contributing to their poverty.
• The existing education, skills development and training program of the BuCor
and BJMP must be strengthened, expanded if needed and supported by
additional resources to develop further the functional literacy and enhance the
productivity of inmates.
• It is critical to give inmates opportunities to work while inside prisons or jails
through work and livelihood programs. These programs are primarily intended to
give inmates opportunities to earn income for his own support and for his family’s
• The treatment program for inmates must include the provision of adequate food,
health services, medicines and recreation facilities. These are rights accorded to
both prisoners and detainees pursuant to the Minimum Standards on the
Treatment of Prisoners and Detainees.
PAO lawyers are already saddled by heavy caseloads. While part of the
responsibilities of PAO is to visit prisons and jails, the survey indicates that inmate’s are not aware of its existence. The provision of free legal aid is a constitutionally guaranteed right accorded to poor litigants, including prisoners and detainees.
Moreover, the high cost of litigation has been identified as a major barrier in
accessing justice by the disadvantaged. It is therefore necessary for PAO to intensify it legal counseling interventions for inmates. To augment its existing capacity, PAO may partner with civil society organization and alternative law groups to fill these gaps in legal aid provision.
Inmates who would like to complain about prison/jail conditions and other concerns do not know where to lodge their complaints. The BuCor and BJMP, as well as the provincial jails must see to it that mechanisms are installed and implemented on receiving and addressing inmates concerns/complaints. The Philippine Congress may also explore the possibility of passing a legislation that would provide for an Ombudsman in prisons and jails, who will serve an advocate of prisoners and detainees’ rights.
Inmates must be properly informed of legal remedies available to him during his incarceration. Based on findings of the survey, effective modalities in informing
inmates of their rights are either lacking or inefficient. In the case of BuCor, an
inmate is briefed about prison rules and regulation and his fundamental rights upon entry to the penitentiaries. This is the primary task carried out by the Reception and Diagnostic Center. Similarly, jail officials are required to provide sufficient information to inmates on legal remedies available to him upon entry to a jail facility. These legal remedies may include right to bail, right against self-incrimination, right to counsel, opportunities for release on recognizance, parole, probation and pardon, and other similar rights and privileges.
The most common of the internal capacity problems of these agencies are the
• Lack of information technology systems and expertise
Lack of technology to properly maintain inmates’ records and process documents
for their immediate release is a prevailing situation. Limited use of information
technology to support investigation and validation of information on inmates with
pertinent agencies like the courts, prosecutors’ offices and law enforcement
agencies, to back up recommendations for early release of qualified offenders,
and/or for providing them with other needed services, impede correction and
• Unattractive compensation, emoluments and benefits
Common to practically all government agencies, this problem may be difficult to
address. But an assessment of the remuneration of personnel involved in the
corrections pillar must be taken in the light of severe resource constraints and the
priority that government gives to the peace and order sector as a factor of
• Inadequate training
Inadequate training has been cited as one of the many reasons for inefficiencies
and deficiencies in the agencies under the corrections pillar. Specifically, there is
need to train correction officers, probation officers, and prisons officers.
Inadequate training facilities and equipment is a concomitant issue that adversely
affects the conduct of necessary training programs to upgrade and develop the
expertise of the key personnel involved in the corrections pillar.
• Outdated, outmoded and dilapidated correctional facilities
Prisons and jails in the country are generally in bad conditions. Prisons and jails
are in dire need of proper maintenance and repair. Furniture, equipment and
various facilities in both jails and prisons badly need replacement.
An oversight mechanism to formulate national policies and standards on correction and rehabilitation and monitor implementation of programs and performance of agencies involved in the pillar is necessary. The arrangement would require the identification of proper organizational placement and roles of agencies and institutions concerned; definition of the interventions to be done at the oversight level, and those at the operating or local level; delineation of functions based on appropriate horizontal and vertical compartmentalization criteria; and development of clear and effective inter-agency coordinative mechanisms and operating processes.
Atty. Manuel J. Laserna Jr.