Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has instructed the Department of Justice oversight committee to closely monitor the reforms being carried out by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) under its newly appointed chief Gerald Bantag to ensure that the rights and well-being of inmates are taken into consideration.
Guevarra also said by law, the department only has administrative supervision over BuCor and may not interfere in the agency’s day-to-day operations.
Supervision includes “ calling attention to actions which are improper, unlawful, or way out of bounds.” It also includes instituting disciplinary action whenever warranted.
With the help from the Philippine National Police (PNP), BuCor recently conducted its clearing operations and destroyed the “kubol” (huts) that forced some of the inmates to sleep along the streets inside the compound since they could no longer be accommodated by the overcrowded detention cells.
The chief of the directorial staff at the PNP, Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, said the police would continue supporting the ongoing reforms at BuCor.
“There is now a good coordination and cooperation between the police and the BuCor. And also with other law enforcement agencies, this… must continue,” Eleazar said Sunday.
The BuCor, under Bantag, is conducting a rigid vetting process of all prison guards and personnel of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) over allegations of massive corruption that enabled incarcerated drug lords to continue running their businesses from behind bars.
Eleazar said there is a need to extend full support to the BuCor, noting most of the shabu supply in Metro Manila came from the syndicates being managed by convicted drug lords inside the NBP.
Bantag earlier sought the assistance of Eleazar when he relieved hundreds of prison guards. Eleazar eventually deployed 551 policemen to assume the duties of the prison guards.
Eleazar and Bantag are working with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, National Bureau of Investigation and the military at the NBP through the establishment of a liaison office to bust the drug operations inside the NBP.
“We have a good start with the BuCor. We intend to finish what we started there in terms of denying all the convicted drug lords inside and even leaders of other criminal syndicates to continue with their operation,” Eleazar said.
Eleazar initiated the alliance of four law enforcement agencies in Metro Manila amid criticisms of a lack of coordination that allowed illegal drug operations in the NBP to continue.
Meanwhile, Senator Ronald dela Rosa said he wants to transfer the control and supervision of provincial and sub-provincial jails to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).
In filing Senate Bill No. 1100, Dela Rosa said he wants to improve the existing penal system and ensure the adequate and efficient protection of prisoners and detainees.
“Our proposed measure aims to implement a uniform, undeviating standard in the implementation of existing policies and guidelines with regard to the administration of our detention facilities,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
At present, he said only the city, municipal and district jails are under the supervision of the BJMP while the provincial and sub-provincial jails are under the concerned provincial government.
Dor Dela Rosa, this setup blocks the improvement of a national standard that is “geared towards a more effective rehabilitation of inmates.”
He said his proposed measure intends to amend certain provisions of Republic Act 6975 or the Department of Interior and Local Government Act of 1990, Dela Rosa said.
In past weeks, government agencies tasked to handle jail facilities –the BuCor included –were criticized during a series of hearings on the questionable implementation of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law, which uncovered other irregularities in the management of the country’s jails.