Late submission of inmates’ prison records slowing down efforts to decongest jails
MANILA, Philippines — The late submission of inmates’ prison records to the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) is hindering efforts to eradicate the “almost inhuman” congestion of jails in the country, senators learned Wednesday.
In some instances, the carpeta or prison records of an inmate eligible for pardon or parole are forwarded to the BPP one or even three years after the inmate has served his or her minimum sentence, BPP chairman Sergio Rubico Calizo Jr. said during the budget hearing of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
According to Calizo, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) is mandated to submit to the BPP the list of eligible inmates one month before they complete their sentence.
“One of the agencies that can decongest our jails right now is the Board of Pardons and Paroles…we will be able to review petitions for parole and recommend[ations] for executive clemency only if we have the carpeta or the prison records from the BuCor,” Calizo said.
He said the BPP has the capacity to review at least 1,000 petitions or recommendations a month.
“Out of 1,000 probably we will be able to decongest the jail, maybe about 300 to 500 a month,” Calizo said.
“The only problem is that we do not get the carpeta fom BuCor on time, in a timely manner,” he added.
“I see sometimes that a lot that we get, the PDLs (persons deprived of liberty) have already served their sentence one year, two years, even three years after they served [their minimum sentence],” he further said.
Calizo called for a faster submission of prison records to the BPP.
“If we can just request that carpetas and prison records be released to us on time then we will be able to help in the decongestion of the prisons,” he said.
In terms of the submissions to the BPP, Calizo said they usually receive 1,000 per month but the number declined since the pandemic started.
From January to June this year, the BPP only received 1,283 submissions, he noted.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Sonny Angara were concerned about the delayed submission of prison records of inmates eligible for release, which could have addressed the congestion problem in the country’s jails.
“We cannot allow the continued deprivation of liberty because of the inefficiency of the BuCor,” Drilon said. “The congestion is so bad that it’s almost inhuman.”
“I agree, it’s unfair and it’s unjust and it’s inefficient,” Angara, for his part, said.
In response to this, BuCor Deputy Director-General for Administration and Operations Gabriel Chaclag said the office handling the evaluation of carpetas “has been doing its share.”
“They are [working] overtime to review all these papers, all these carpetas and one of the reasons is because of the GCTA (Good Conduct Time Allowance) issue, they have gone back to start all these carpetas that has been in question, that is one of the reasons,” Chaclag said.
Furthermore, he said the pandemic has also affected the concerned BuCor office, with almost all of the staff contracting COVID-19 at one point.
“Dalawa lang po yung naiwan doon at [Only two employees were able to work on it and] they were doing their work at home,” he said.
He also assured Calizo that BuCor will continue coordinating with the BPP.
“We assure the body na kami po ay hindi nagpapabaya at ginagawa po yung aming makakaya at kung ano man po yung pagkukulang ay tinutupad po natin hanggang sa ating makakaya [We assure the body that we are not being complacent and we are doing the best we can and if there are gaps we are trying to fill them as much as we can],” Chaclag said.
“BuCor is one with everyone na hindi po makatarungan talaga na nandito po sila sa ;oob at tapos na yung kanilang sintensiya [BuCor is one with everyone that it is not just that inmates are still here when they have served their sentence already],” he added.
Both Drilon and Angara also called on BuCor and the Department of Justice to work on a road map that would help decongest prisons in the country.
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