Lower House approves separate prison facility for hardened criminals, heinous crime convicts

Published December 1, 2021, 6:31 PM

by Ben Rosario

With 222 affirmative and zero negative votes the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Dec. 1 passed on third and final reading the bill providing for the segregation in a separate facility of high-level convicts from those serving time for lesser offenses.

Prison cell

Passage of House Bill 10355 or the Separate Facility for High Level Offenders Act was strongly endorsed by the House Committee on Justice chaired by Leyte Rep. Vicente “Ching” Veloso.

HB 10355 consolidated three legislative proposals filed by Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Reps. LRay Villafuerte (2nd District, Camarines Sur) and Teodorico Haresco (2nd District, Aklan).

The bill defines high-level offenders as those individuals convicted of heinous crimes and identified by the Bureau of Corrections as high-risk or high-profile.

The BoC will take into consideration the offense for which the inmate has been convicted, the criminal record or history of the prisoner and the gang affiliation.

Romualdez, one of the principal authors of the bill, said heinous crime offenders would be better detained in a separate prison facility within a military establishment or an island separate in the mainland.” Under HB 10355 offenders of heinous crimes will be transferred to prison facilities to be constructed for this purpose.

The secretary of justice is given the authority to choose a suitable location for the said facility.

Romualdez said putting up a separate facility for prisoners convicted of heinous crimes and high-level drug offenses has become vital as there has been a “failure of the present treatment program and detention security measures of the Bureau of Corrections.” The House official cited reports of a series of inspections and raids in the premises of the New Bilibid Prisons that have yielded contraband items, including drugs.

“These incidents prove that convicted drug lords could continue their illegla drug business inside the premises of the national penitentiary, probably with the aid of regular inmates with whom they are commingled,” said Romualdez Villafuerte cited similar reasons as he cited the case of drug convict Rustico Ygot who was able to carry out illegal drug operations in Cebu while serving at the maximum security compound of the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City.

“The passage of this bill aims to put an end to the nefarious activities of drug offenders and to strengthen the nation’s war on drugs,” said Villafuerte.

In filing HB 4461, Haresco enumerated the crimes of convicts who should be held in separate prison facility. These are treason, parricide, murder, infanticide, kidnapping and serious illegal detention. destructive arson, rape and serious drug offenses, among others.

“These prisoners should not be mixed with other inmates to ensure that those convicted of heinous crimes will not influence those who did not commit crimes as grave as they did,” explained Haresco.