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Recto hoping for speedy release of qualified, sickly prisoners

/ 09:46 PM September 18, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Wednesday called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to speed up the release of “genuinely sick” and “terminally-ill” prisoners.

Recto’s remarks came after President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to fast track the release of sick and elderly prisoners following the signing of the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law.

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“With the signing of the revised rules on GCTA, it is hoped that our Justice and prison officials will work overtime like elves in Santa’s workshop to bring the genuinely sick, infirm, old, terminally-ill prisoners home to their families this Christmas,” Recto said in a statement.

“The President is correct – reboot the GCTA process and start with prisoners who, in addition to fulfilling all GCTA requirements, should be freed on humanitarian grounds,” he added.

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For the GCTA to be impartially implemented, however, Recto said that a list of “who’ve been bad or good” should be vetted by an outside oversight committee and not by “foxes who’ve been let loose in the chicken coop.”

Maintaining prisons

Recto hopes that the controversy surrounding the “GCTA for sale” scheme would shed a light on the cost taxpayers shoulder to maintain detention centers in the country.

Citing the 2020 proposed appropriations and projected inmate population of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Recto said that the annual cost of housing, feeding, guarding, and transporting one BJMP detainee would be about P101,887.

For the BuCor, with a proposed budget of P4.297 billion and estimated inmate population of 47,010, the expense per prisoner will be around P91,407 per year.

“A prisoner is a hundred-thousand-peso annual expense, a taxpayer burden that is four times the annual P23,125 price tag of sending a child to a public school or college,” Recto said.

“But we can only decongest our jails, especially the ones run by BJMP – which is packing four times more prisoners per square meter of cell space than what is ideal – if the wheels of justice will turn faster, by more hands who will move it,” he added.

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Decongesting jails, Recto said, can be done by hiring more prosecutors to handle cases and hiring more lawyers at the Public Attorneys Office (PAO), among others measures.

“The billions of pesos we pay for our prisons is the annual national penalty we pay for our slow justice system,” Recto said./ac

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TAGS: Bucor, GCTA, Prisoner, Ralph Recto, Recto
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