Nearly 70 percent of the country’s jails are dangerously overcrowded, thanks but no thanks to the law enforcers’ relentless drive against illegal drugs, along with shortage of trial judges and poverty that prevented countless prisoners from posting bail for their temporary liberty.
According to a Commission on Audit (COA) 2022 report, the national jail congestion was at 67.57 percent last year, or 323 out of 478 jails virtually bursting at the seams, to the extreme prejudice of the prisoners also called persons deprived of liberty (PDLs).
In its audit on the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), the COA said occupancy rates in the so-called correction facilities ranged from 101 percent to as high as 2,739 percent.
The total jail population as of the end of 2022 was 127,031 which was way beyond the “total ideal capacity” of 46,702, the COA said.
“While the agency has been continuously professionalizing the jail services as well as unceasingly providing the basic needs of PDL such as food, drugs and medicines, rehabilitation supplies, etc., congestion has always been one of the biggest challenges in carrying out its mandate in humane safekeeping and development of PDL under its care,” the audit report stated.
The audit team noted that congestion in Philippine jails violated the United Nations standards on jail management, as well as the BJMP manual itself.
Areas in the country with the highest jail congestion rates were Calabarzon, Mimaropa, and Metro Manila, the COA said.
For 2022, there was a net increase of 1,684 PDLs from 125,347 in 2021. Among the reasons were the government’s campaign against illegal drugs and delays in court processes due to a lack of judges.
“Likewise, the non-posting of bail of qualified detainees, who are from below poverty line and cannot afford to post bail, still remained imprisoned,” the COA noted
“It is worthy to note that once ongoing projects are completed, the current average congestion rate of the region will decrease significantly,” the BJMP told the state auditors.
“Nagpapatayo tayo ng bagong facilities sa pakikipagtulungan sa mga LGUs natin na… lupa, lumalawak ang mga facilities, nag-iimprove ang kanilang condition,” BJMP spokesperson chief inspector Jayrex Bustinera said in a televised briefing last April.