Senator Leila M. de Lima has pushed anew a suitable and long-overdue facility for Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) by pushing through with the construction of the state-of-the-art prison facility inside the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija.
De Lima, a former justice secretary, maintained that the proposed facility is the long-term solution to the worsening congestion in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) that has also resulted in inhuman living conditions for inmates and prison-based criminality.
“I appeal, most fervently, to all concerned government officials to seriously consider this infrastructure plan that will decisively address the proverbial issue of overcrowded jails, which is the root cause of different problems hounding the NBP,” she said.
“If the government is really serious in addressing the perennial problem of jail congestion in our country and ensuring the rehabilitation of inmates, it should consider allotting enough budget to provide a suitable facility for inmates,” she added.
Following the observance of Prison Awareness Week from October 21 to 27, the lady Senator from Bicol renewed her call for the Duterte administration to reconsider its decision to abandon the construction of prison facility in Nueva Ecija.
The previous administration initiated the plan to transfer the NBP and the Correctional Institution for Women to the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Gen. Tinio, Nueva Ecija and create a state-of-the-art facility there through the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) under the Build-Transfer-Maintain scheme.
“If the plan pushes through, inmates at the NBP and the Correctional Institution for Women will be moved to a facility with modern security and correctional features – a step closer towards helping inmates rebuild their lives,” she said.
The said facility is envisioned to accommodate 25,000 inmates, including staff housing and administrative buildings, areas for rehabilitation – such as sports, work and religious activity—, and installed with high security equipment. The set-up would also provide for proper classification of PDLs based on risk and needs, with those convicted for heinous crimes to be housed in a separate maximum security facility.
In terms of financing, detailed design and construction, and maintenance of the prison facility, the private partner should be responsible, while a number of supporting accommodation and building-related services may be outsourced as part of the PPP agreement.
Given that scenario, De Lima said the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Corrections could focus in maintaining the operational custodial and reformation services of the institution, with BuCor particularly focusing on its core tasks which is the safekeeping and rehabilitation of inmates.
“Prison should be a place for inmates to rehabilitate and improve their lives, and not the other way around. Ang mga bilanggo, tulad ng bawat Pilipino sa bansang ito, ay may karapatan din para sa makataong pagtrato,” she said.
At the time of the exit of the Aquino Administration in June 2016, the milestone project had already reached the pre-qualification stage whereby three major bidders have pre-qualified.
While initially open to the project, the Duterte government, however, aborted the planned construction project because, according to then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirree, “the cost and transfer of the building is too high” and “not practical.”
This 18th Congress, De Lima filed two measures which seek to introduce comprehensive reforms in the country’s prison and correctional systems, including upgrading its current facilities and improving the reformatory programs for the inmates.
These are Senate Bill (SB) Nos. 180 and 181, to be known as “Prison Reform Act of 2019,” and the “Unified Corrections and Jail Management System Act of 2019,” respectively.