NGO pushes for decongestion of all prisons in Metro ManilaPhilippine Daily Inquirer
Prison inmates have rights, too.
Lawyer Rommel Alim Abitria, executive director of the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation (HLAF), made this statement after he expressed alarm over congested jails in Metro Manila, eight of which have found relief through the organization’s assistance.
“Recently, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and HLAF were able to work on the release of 1,969 prison inmates in Metro Manila in a record four months,” said Abitria.
The inmates were from jails in Caloocan, Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila, Pasay, Pasig, Taguig and Quezon City.
HLAF is a nonprofit, nongovernment organization (NGO) that seeks to uphold the rights, welfare and well-being of prisoners, especially those in need of special assistance such as the sick, elderly and children in conflict with the law.
Lately, the HLAF has been actively working on training inmates as paralegal volunteers.
Abitria noted that among the goals of the organization was to find solutions to jail congestion.
According to him, a man who is unjustly detained even without a complainant stays an average of four years in jail while waiting for his case to be heard. Hearings are usually scheduled three to four months apart.
The lack of juvenile detention homes in cities has also led to youth offenders being mixed with hardened criminals.
No to amending law
Abitria, meanwhile, warned against the House of Representative’s approval of the bill lowering the age of criminal responsibility.
“The lowering of the age of criminal liability is antipoor and antichildren. Only children of the poor are brought to youth homes and their situation in jail is really horrible. Existing youth homes are substandard,” he said.
He challenged legislators to look into the cases of children locked up in adult jails.
“While the title of the amendatory law (House Bill No. 6052) is‘Strengthening the Juvenile Justice Law,’ what it really does is weaken the existing Juvenile Justice Law,” he claimed.