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    Posted July 31, 2014 by

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    Will Phl senators enjoy luxuries while in custody?

    WILL detained Philippine Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. become VIP prisoners enjoying extravagant accommodations in jails?
    Opening her website, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago cried foul over reports that so-called VIP prisoners enjoy extravagant accommodations in jails.
    “How can there be justice in our correctional system when we have a double standard between poor and rich inmates?” the senator asked.
    Santiago cited news reports of rich high-risk prisoners in the New Bilibid Prison staying in airconditioned rooms, enjoying contraband supplies such as illegal drugs and alcohol, and even taking in sex workers.
    Some VIP inmates reportedly drive around the penitentiary grounds in golf carts, electric motorcycles, and tricycles.
    It was also reported that the maximum security compound has its own dress shops, wet and dry markets, fruit stands, as well as facilities such a jazz bar, plaza, and tennis court.
    “These prisoners are supposed to be experiencing punishment for their crimes, not taking a vacation. They are making a mockery out of the justice system by turning our jails into their own private resorts,” she said.
    These reports prompted Santiago to file Senate Resolution No. 525, calling for a Senate investigation on the anomalous situation in the New Bilibid Prison.
    “The same thing is happening in other prison complexes in the country. If this can happen in a maximum security compound, who knows what else happens in other jails?” she said.
    Santiago also filed Senate Bill No. 1759, or the “No Frills Prison Bill”, to eliminate luxurious prison conditions by mandating average standard living conditions and opportunities for every prisoner.
    Santiago’s proposed law prohibits access by all prisoners to certain luxuries, such as TV-viewing inside cells, cellphones, and computers. It also imposes additional restrictions for prisoners serving a sentence for violent crimes.
    “Under the equal protection clause of the Constitution, all persons similarly situated should receive similar treatment. It does not matter whether you’re a Johnny caught picking pockets or a Johnny charged with plunder. All detainees and prisoners, whether common criminals or senators, should have the same accommodations,” she said.
    Meanwhile, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV has called on the government to improve the manner of treatment of detainees across the country, while pushing for the passage of Senate Bill No. 793 or the Jail Integration bill which proposes for an integrated prison and jail system that provides professionalism in the rehabilitation and treatment of prisoners.
    Posted on his website, Trillanes said: “Throughout the country, the problem of congestion in jail facilities often leads to jail disturbance, escapes, substandard living conditions, poor sanitation and hygiene-related diseases, as the number of inmates in jails continue to increase. For this reason, an integrated prison and jail system is considered necessary to improve correctional services and solve the jail congestion problem nationwide.”
    He explained: “We are promoting a just and humane society and to treat detainees like dogs is not the way to go. We have to improve our detention facilities and construct new ones to make sure that these detainees will not lose their dignity while in jail.”
    Trillanes made this call after people remonstrated against the special treatment being given to detained senators due to plunder raps.
    He further explained that the treatment of the detained senators is the global standard treatment to detainees. According to him, we should, instead, pressure the government to level up the treatment of other detainees.
    In a study conducted by the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), it stressed that “herding individuals in cramped spaces is cruel, inhuman, ill, degrading, and unjust punishment.” It is not only dangerous to health but also breaks down discipline and exacerbates tensions where inmates have to constantly fight for air and space.
    SBN 793 particularly aims to integrate the existing penal system into one coordinated, highly-efficient and competent office to be called Bureau of Correctional Services under the Department of Justice. This bureau shall be responsible for the proper maintenance of secure, adequately equipped and sanitary jails for the custody and safekeeping of prisoners. Any person who employs physical, psychological, inhuman or degrading punishment against any prisoner or detainee, or is responsible for the use of facilities under subhuman conditions shall be held administratively liable, in addition to whatever criminal liability he/she may incur.
    In the said bill, classification and transfer of prisoners will be done, taking into account their age, incorrigibility or recidivism, gravity of the offense committed, penalty or sentence imposed on them, and such other factors as may help in determining to which jail they shall be properly and appropriately placed under custody, with the end in view of decongesting the jails and promoting the general welfare of the prisoners.
    "We are obligated, not only by law but by international norms and morals to treat prisoners and detainees humanely, without discrimination and any other condition. It is our duty to help them in their reformation and assist them in their re-integration to the society," Trillanes concluded.
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