A strong political will is needed for the national government to sell the large Muntinglupa national penitentiary and establish three regional detention centers, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto on Wednesday, Nov. 17 said.
Sotto, thus, threw his support to Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon who continues to badger the Department of Justice (DOJ) to try to convince the Executive branch on the merits of selling the 300-hectare or so Muntinlupa penitentiary and establishing regional jails in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
There are many proposals on what to do with the Muntinlupa penitentiary once sold. This includes Sotto’s own idea of transforming it into a ‘’University Belt’’ so as to decongest the crowded universities and colleges, mostly in Manila.
Senator Juan Edgardo ‘’Sonny’’ M. Angara, chairman of the Senate Finance committee, told Drilon that the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) has received offers from the private sector should there be a government decision to sell it.
The offer might be submitted to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Angara added.
Drilon said the Muntinglupa penitentiary is an expensive idle real estate.
Sotto said government might get ‘’trillions of pesos’’ should it be sold.
Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra told Angara that he might consider Drilon’s proposal that he sends an executive order to Malacanang and hopes President Duterte would sign the jail regionalization plan.
Guevarra was present in today’s hearing on the proposed 2022 budget of DOJ and its attached agencies.
Sotto was the presiding officer.
After Sotto said aloud that President Duterte might not agree to the regionalization plan because the plan did not come from him, Angara said the issue might be tackled in the next administration.
Sotto recalled that the Senate had passed a bill establishing a tightly-guarded jail complex for high-level criminals, such as drug lords.
He also said that detainees become unruly when they are not visited by their loved ones or family, particularly when they still have to travel from the southern and northern parts of the archipelago to see them at Muntinglupa.
Drilon said his plan is just the physical transfer of the detainees at Muntinglupa to unused government lands adjacent to the military reservation in Laur, Nueva Ecija.
Angara recalled that the Department of National Defense (DND) rejects such a plan.
‘’I don’t think a law is needed,’’ Drilon, a former DOJ Secretary, said.
‘’We need a leader who can take the bull by the horns,’’ he stressed, adding that this is the fifth annual budget hearing that attends and continues to keep on pressing for the breaking up of the Muntinglupa complex.