Malnutrition ‘common’ among PDLs, says Remulla
MANILA, Philippines — Malnutrition is a “common” problem among persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) across the country, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla disclosed.
Remulla lamented the “subhuman conditions” PDLs are subjected to in Philippine prisons during his speech at the 70th Founding Anniversary of the Criminal Investigative and Detection Group on Friday.
“Iyong hirap na kanilang dinaranas sa loob ng piitan ay walang katulad (The difficulties they face inside the prison is incomparable). Malnutrition is now the common condition inside our jail system,” he said.
After taking office, the DOJ chief was surprised to receive many PDL food service proposals.
“Ang naging resulta nito? Kapag nakuha ang catering contract, nagkaroon ng interes ang tao sa budget na napupunta sa mga PDL, iyong P70 (budget per PDL) maswerte na tayo kung umabot sa hapagkainan ang P35 – ang kalahati nito,” he said.
(The results of this? When they get the catering contract and take an interest in the budget that supposedly goes to PDLs, it will be tough luck if P35 or half of the P70 budget per PDL will reach their dining tables.)
Remulla noted that the dishonesty pushes PDLs to resort to illicit “coping mechanisms” where their family members send them money for their food, coursed through the mobile wallets of prison guards.
In January, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) seized some P300,000 in the locker of a prison guard. The money reportedly came from the supposed mobile wallet scheme.
Remulla also cited the autopsy reports of hundreds of PDL cadavers they had recovered from the Eastern Funeral Services in Muntinlupa City – the New Bilibid Prison’s only accredited mortuary.
“Ang mga bilanggo natin ay puro tuberculosis, kung hindi tuberculosis, may cancer. At napakaraming sakit na naroon dahil sila ay hindi nakakain ng maayos sa kanilang kinalalagyan,” he noted.
(Our prisoners had tuberculosis. If not tuberculosis, cancer. And there are so many diseases because they cannot eat properly there.)
These so-called coping mechanisms of PDLs, according to Remulla, are their desperate means of survival. But he said these are also manifestations of the deeply embedded corruption in the Philippine prison systems.
With this, Remulla underscored the need to “seriously consider” specific reforms in the BuCor.
Among all the agencies under the DOJ, Remulla said BuCor was among “the most notorious, the most infamous and the most controversial.”
“The BuCor is, right now, one of the biggest mega prisons in the world. Isa sa pinakamalaking piitan sa buong mundo kung saan matatagpuan ang mahigit, dito lang sa Muntinlupa, 55,000 tao (One of the biggest prisons in the world where more than, only here in Muntinlupa, 55,000 people can be found),” he said,.
Remulla pointed out that this contrasts with the global trend in penology, which seeks smaller prisons for closer supervision of PDLs.
In line with this, Remulla said the DOJ is pushing for the decentralization of BuCor.
“We have found it wiser to shift our template to a regional prison system, where reformation of the persons convicted of crimes and deprived of liberty can take place closer to their families [and] where they can be visited by their kin,” he said.
Inconsistent prisoner data, the proliferation of contraband items in detention cells, and the alleged collusion of inmates and government officials in committing crimes are among the other issues hounding BuCor.
The 2022 Percival Mabasa ambush probe exposed these vulnerabilities.