Push to transfer provincial jails to BJMP control gains support

By Wilnard Bacelonia

March 22, 2023, 7:38 pm

<p>Maguindanao Provincial Jail <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Maguindanao Provincial Jail (File photo)

MANILA – Various support were expressed on Wednesday to Senate Bill Nos. 1451 and 2014, which seek to integrate all provincial and sub-provincial jails within the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

During the public hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, Zamboanga del Sur Governor Victor Yu and Agusan del Sur Governor Santiago Cane Jr. agreed to the proposal saying it will unburden the provincial government on the "quite expensive" maintenance of jails.

"It is our opportunity to focus on more pressing responsibilities in our respective jurisdiction like the delivery of social services and functions especially devolved to us by the Local Government Code," Yu said.

He also noted the fact that the BJMP is the appropriate agency to manage a provincial jail since the personnel are well-trained and have the technical knowledge and expertise to handle PDLs (persons deprived of liberty).

"It is high-time to implement a uniformed, comprehensive, and standard policy for jail management. It is also an opportunity for our provincial jail personnel who are qualified to be absorbed by the BJMP," Yu added.

However, Ronaldo Togonon, who is the vice president of Provincial Jail Employees' Association of the Philippines (PJEAP), expressed his group's concern on the provincial jail personnel who might lose their jobs when the measure will be passed into law.

"Sila po ay nagsakripisyo ng napakatagal pero dito sa bagong bill, paano kapag sila ay hindi na-absorb? Saan na sila mapupunta (They have sacrificed for a very long time but in this bill, what happens if they will not be absorbed [by the BJMP]? Where will they go?," Togonon asked the committee.

"Ang concern po namin sana po bigyan ng malaking konsiderasyon ang mga jail personnel para ma-absorb sila ng BJMP in whatever way na magagawa dito (Our concern is the jail personnel should be given big consideration to be absorbed by the BJMP in whatever way that can be done)," he added.

In its current requirement, a BJMP officer should have a bachelor's degree and must have passed the Penology Officer Examination or must possess a second level civil service eligibility which many of the provincial jail personnel do not have.

But Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, who chairs the committee, assured that this will be addressed during the transition period wherein provincial jail personnel will be given a certain period of time to secure a bachelor's degree and take the Penology Officer and Civil Service examinations to be fully absorbed by the BJMP.

For the Agusan del Sur's part, Cane also assured that the provincial government will be willing to absorb all the jail personnel in the province who will be unqualified to join BJMP.

"Rest assured that in the province of Agusan del Sur kung sinuman ang mga employees namin ngayon na hindi maa-absorb ng BJMP because of some requirements ay automatically ia-absorb namin yan sa (whoever in our current employees will not be absorbed in the BJMP because of some requirements will automatically be absorbed by the) provincial government," Cane said saying they can be reassigned to the Agusan del Sur Provincial Civil Security Unit.

He also said that the Agusan del Sur provincial government is willing to transfer the land and all provincial jail facilities to BJMP if the measure will become a law.

BJMP chief Jail Director Allan Iral told the committee that the county's current correctional system is fragmented considering the provincial jails can implement their own rules and protocols which can be different from the BJMP.

"This setup endears the advancement of the international standard and the operational management of all local jails that aims towards more effective rehabilitation of persons deprived of liberty," Iral said.

By bringing all provincial jails under the BJMP's jurisdiction, the BJMP chief noted that there can be better coordination and standardization of policies, procedures and operations that can lead to improved efficiency in managing the jails and providing services to PDLs.

He said it can also be easier to monitor and track the performance of different jails and ensure that they are meeting certain standards of care for PDLs and allow for more consistent training and development of jail personnel.

"Integrating all provincial jails under the BJMP's jurisdiction can also lead to cost savings and resources can be pulled and shared more efficiently. This can help reduce the overall operating cost of the government with regard to the operation of facilities, additional facilities, aid in the resolution of jail congestion. Thus, providing the ideal living space for every PDL," Iral explained.

Dela Rosa said the measures seek to promote uniformity in the management of jails so there will be "uniformity" in the way that the government keeps PDLs safe and provide them with opportunities to develop themselves.

"This legislative measure also seeks to provide opportunities for career development for provincial jail employees. In the same manner, we want to unburden the provincial government with the jail management responsibility so they will be able to focus on providing basic social services to their constituents," the lawmaker said.

It is stated in the Strategy framework of Legislative Agenda to Enhance the Administration of Justice of the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028 signed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that all penal institutions should be unified under one agency, with close collaboration among courts for the disposition of detention prisoners and convicted offenders.

According to the Department of Budget and Management, the country currently has 80 provincial and sub-provincial jails with 3,296 existing personnel and PHP1.2 billion worth of personal services requirements. (PNA)