Alvarez's jail decongestion pitch: Free 'non-violent marijuana offenders'

At a glance

  • Davao del Norte 1st district Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez is suggesting that "non-violent marijuana (cannabis) offenders" be freed as a way to decongest local jails.

  • Alvarez is pushing for the decriminalization of marijuana.

  • Alvarez is a former House Speaker.

20230329_175130.jpg Marijuana leaves (left), Davao del Norte 1st district Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez (Unsplash, Facebook)

If Davao del Norte 1st district Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez would have his way, he would start decongesting cramped local prisons by freeing who he describes as "non-violent marijuana (cannabis) offenders".

“I am one with the President on calling for solutions to solve the jail congestion. Over the years, while progress has been attained in doing this, there is still much more to be done," Alvarez, a former House Speaker, said in a statement on Thursday, May 25.

As per recent data from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), there are a combined 131, 311 detainees and sentenced prisoners nationwide as of Sept. 30, 2022.

The congestion rate of 370 percent from the 338 congested BJMP jails nationwide means that there are five persons deprived of liberty (PDL) in every 4.7 square meter cell area.

“I assume that in the 90,000 illegal drug offenders in the country, the bulk of them were imprisoned due to marijuana. Yung mga nag-marijuana, hindi tulad ng mga naka-'shabu', hindi yan violent. Kapag mahuli yan, hindi tulad ng naka-shabu, hindi yan manglalaban (Unlike 'shabu' users, marijuana users aren't violent. They won't resist arrest when you apprehended them, unlike shabu users)," Alvarez said.

"Magpapaliwanag pa yan kung bakit mabuti ang marijuana (They would even explain why marijuana is good). Kaya nga (That's why) I cannot comprehend why we imprison these people who are peaceful and bring no substantial harm to society," he said.

"Di ba gusto natin magbawas ng preso para guminhawa ang ating mga kulungan? Bakit hindi natin simulan sa mga nakakulong dahil lang sa halaman?” (We want to lessen inmates to decogest jails, right? Why don't we begin with people jailed just because of a plant?)" Alvarez asked.

The Mindanaoan, through House Bill (HB) No.6783, is batting for the removal of cannabis, cannabis resin and extracts, and tinctures of cannabis from the list of illegal substances under the Republic Act (RA) No.9165 or to Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.