Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm in Occidental Mindoro (File photo)

MANILA – Citing the policy of the State to value human dignity and guarantee full respect for human rights among prisoners, two members of the House of Representatives on Friday pushed for the passage of a bill creating more prisons across the country to improve the penal subhuman condition.

Davao City (1st District) Rep. Paolo Duterte and Benguet Rep. Eric Yap on May 11 filed House Bill (HB) 8071 or the Regional Penitentiaries Act that aims to establish an additional penitentiary system in the country to provide prisoners decent and humane accommodation.

They said substandard and inadequate penal facilities in the country have resulted in over congestion and subhuman conditions of prisoners.

“The Constitution vehemently opposes the use of substandard or inadequate penal facilities under subhuman conditions. Despite the said mandate, there are only seven existing correctional facilities in the country which are under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor),” Duterte said.

The seven facilities are the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City; the Correctional Institution for Women (CIW) in Mandaluyong City; Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan; Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm in Occidental Mindoro; San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm in Zamboanga City; Leyte Regional Prison in Abuyog, Leyte; and the Davao Prison and Penal Farm in Panabo, Davao Province.

HB 8071 seeks to establish and operate additional penal farms in Regions 1, 2, 3, 5, 4, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13 and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) to decongest existing penal institutions and to give credence to the prisoners’ “right to decent accommodations, regardless of the wrongful act or omission they have done.”

Yap, for his part, said despite the seven correction facilities spread across the country, congested prisons are still among the pertinent issues faced by the country’s justice system.

“In fact, the World Prison Brief still named the Philippines as the most overcrowded prison system in the world with 215,000 prisoners overfilling the jails and prisons more than five times the jail or prison’s official capacity,” Yap noted, adding that the system has been suffering from long-term neglect.

He said many of the country’s jails fail to meet the minimum United Nations (UN) standards, given the prisons’ cases of inadequate food, poor nutrition and unsanitary conditions, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The authors of the bill also mentioned the mandate adopted by the State under Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Among others, they also said, an adequate standard of living for our prisoners, including decent accommodations, is absolutely considered a human right.

A similar measure, Senate Bill 235, has already been filed at the Senate in August last year by Sen. Robinhood “Robin” Padilla, also seeking to decongest the country's jails and prisons and to improve the reformation program for prisoners.

The Padilla bill proposes to set up penitentiary systems in at least 10 regions using a “standard and uniform design” for the prison complex, reformation and administrative facilities. (PNA)