Manila (AsiaNews / CBCP) - Most of the detainees imprisoned in the Philippine's crammed, overcrowded cells, have been held for years, without ever receiving a final indictment or conviction. The Episcopal Commission for Prison Pastoral Care (ECPPC) says only 35 percent of the 114,368 inmates under the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and the Bureau of Correction (BuCor) were actually found guilty of crimes and are serving their sentences and the remaining 65 percent are only charged but have never been convicted. "They are detained because their alleged crimes are not bailable or they can't afford to pay the bail," said Rodolfo Diamante, ECPPC executive secretary.
Among the factors contributing to the congestion of
prisons, the length of trials and the "serious deficiencies" inherent
in the national prison system that determine "inhumane conditions". Added
to this is an insufficient budget, which is not even able to "meet the basic
needs of prisoners" adds the Philippine Catholic leader.
The appalling conditions in prisons are also worsened by repeated abuses of power by the authorities, resulting in documented cases of ill-treatment, sexual abuse, extortion of prisoners; violence and harassment are also the result of the "struggle for supremacy" between the various prisoners, which often are associated to the "exploitation of prison labor" for profit or personal gain.
The categories most subject to abuse are young people, women, the elderly, people with mental health problems and political prisoners, and prisons which should be corrective centers are increasingly becoming places of desolation, deprivation, incitement to crime.
The report by the Filipino bishops' commission coincides with the week that the Church dedicates each year to prisons and justice. According to Diamante, also part of the problem is a justice system that is still based on punitive measures and a society where many view punishment as the best method of control. He said that institutional imprisonment is not meant only to punish the offender but also to "correct and to prepare them to rejoin society after serving sentence". Diamante concluded that "correction as part of the criminal justice system is both complex and crucial. It is essential to the maintenance of peace and order in society and of the human dignity of its straying members. Unfortunately, correction is least seen and known by the public".