The Need for a Second Look
at the Philippine Prisons
by Apolinario Villalobos
It cannot be denied that the Philippine penitentiary facilities are crammed to the rafters. This is not an exaggerated description of the state of prisons in the Philippines, especially, in Manila. It is purported that in some facilities, the inmates have to maintain a schedule so that everybody can have a chance to lie down when it is their turn to sleep, while those waiting for theirs have to stand or sit it out the whole night or whole day. There are facilities with tolerable occupancy, which means that though cramped, there is no scheduled lie-down sleep.
The need to look at the country’s penitentiaries should not only be confined in their condition, but also the records that must be reviewed. The penitentiary facilities are supposed to reform criminals, unfortunately, there are some who found their way inside as a result of miscarried justice, so, what is there to reform? The victims are usually those who cannot afford lawyers to fight for their rights. Ironically, some of those who are guilty are saved by their money. In fact, there are stories about victims of this injustice who are able to breathe again the air of freedom, after wasted long years of languishing behind bars.
And, there’s the overall system. Some influential prisoners who are serving their sentence seem to be just spending vacation, as they can still use cellphones discreetly and enjoy the luxury of electric fan. Some stories about drug lords going on with their business, though already inside the facility, sometimes find their way on pages of tabloids. Some can even leave the facilities as what the once detained former Governor Leviste of Batangas did.
If the Commission on Human Rights can be so discerning about criminals caught in the act and who are shot when they fought back, hence, question the lack of discretion in the ranks of the police, why can’t it take a hard look at the squalid state and tainted system of the country’s penitentiary facilities to cleanse their image?