COA notes overcrowding in PH jails

Published August 31, 2020, 4:42 PM

by Ben Rosario

Congestion in jails remain the biggest problem in the Philippine justice system as reported overcrowding has reached 106,361 Persons Deprived of Liberty over the ideal capacity of 24,306 or 438 percent above the normal occupancy rate.

The Commission on Audit said the most overcrowded detention centers run by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology are those located in Region 9 or the Zamboanga Peninsula with a congestion rate of 821 percent; the National Capital Region or Metro Manila, 645 percent; Region 7 or Central Visayas, 611 percent; Region 4-A or Calabarzon, 513 percent, and Region 3 or Central Luzon, 507 percent.

Not one among the country’s 17 regions have ideal occupancy capacity.

In the 2019 annual audit report released over the weekend, COA said the BJMP failed in attaining its objectives of improving the living conditions of inmates in accordance with accepted standards set by the United Nations and in “enhancing the safekeeping and development of inmates in preparation for their eventual reintegration into the mainstream of society.”

State auditors lamented that jail congestion has resulted in unhealthy environment for PDLs that may affected their morale and health conditions.

In the audit report sent by COA, Director Irma Besas informed Jail Director Allan S. Iral, BJMP chief, said that under the BJMP Manual on Habitat, a cell capacity for ten persons must have a habitable floor area per inmate of 4.7 square meters; maximum five two level bunk beds; a wash area, water closet, and bath area.

COA reported that jails located in the Cordillera Autonomous Region, Region 2 or Cagayan Valley, and Region 6 or Western Visayas are the least congested with overcrowding rates of 103 percent, 107, percent, and 150 percent, respectively.

Congestion in other regions — Region 1 or Ilocos region, 296 percent; Region 4-B or MIMAROPA, 222 percent; Region 5 or Bicol Region, 325 percent; Eastern Visayas, 254 percent; Northern Mindanao, 326 percent; Davao, 373 percent; Caraga, 430 percent, and BARMM, 418 percent.

NCR jails which should have an ideal capacity of 4,774 have a total 35,574 population or 30,800 over the capacity.  Region 4-A has a current total of 23,825, which is 19,901 over the 3,924 limit while Region 7’s 20,800 population is over 17,874 the 2,926 ideal capacity.

“Congestion in jails resulted in health and sanitation problems as well as increased gang affiliations of inmates,” COA stressed.