The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) can never be too cautious in handling its prisoners, also called persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), even on Christmas Day.
Meanwhile, BuCor officer-in-charge Gregorio Catapang Jr. expressed optimism that more than 3,000 elderly prisoners would soon be granted executive clemency pursuant to the government’s aggressive program to decongest jails nationwide.
To ward off a looming riot, Catapang said he has allowed the inmates to talk with visiting relatives and friends on Christmas Day, using gadgets like phones and laptops, but the conversations would be recorded.
In an ANC interview, Catapang said he secured permission from Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla for the gadgets to be brought into the New Bilibib Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa City to be used by the PDL.
“It will be a controlled cellphone. It’s monitored, there’s timer, it’s documented, the talks or the conversation will be recorded, if they allow it. I told them, no more illegal cellphones, only allowed cellphones,” Catapang said.
“You know, you cannot avoid the putting up of the cellphones because the prisoner would go into riot. They will riot because that’s the only relief that they can have to de-stress themselves so that they will be happy for the day. They need to talk to their friends, relatives, and their loved ones.”
Catapang admitted however, that the mechanics for monitoring the conversations have not been finalized.
“It’s not a cellphone, it’s a laptop computer. Parang it’s like what you use in the school during the pandemic. But we will look into this if there is an illegal thing,” he said.
“These are the things we’ll have to iron out because if you don’t allow them to talk with their relatives, friends, or loved ones, they will go on a riot and that would be a bigger problem,” he added.
Catapang said that since he assumed office at the BuCor last week, some 500 cellphones from the PDLs have been seized under its Oplan Paglilinis.
Catapang also said they have listed 3,086 PDLs aged 65 to 96 confined in their facilities to be recommended for executive clemency or parole.
“When you go around the other prison colonies, you would really pity them. They’re so old, they’re already in the wheelchair, they can’t move. I think they are having a hard time because they’re like in a sardines can,” Catapang explained.
He said the BuCor is planning to submit the names of elderly PDLs to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. next week.
“That will be a historic release for the old aged PDLs,” he added.
Last month. Catapang said the BuCor looked at the possibility of proposing the grant of executive clemency for elderly PDLs aged 70 and above as part of the decongestion process of its jails.
Department of Justice (DOJ) spokesman Mico Clavano earlier said that Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla would prioritize the decongestion of jails under the BuCor, as the NBP was found to have a congestion rate of 300 percent.
Based on the resolution of the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP), PDLs who are eligible for parole or executive clemency are those who are 65 years old and above; have served at least five years of
their sentence; and whose continued imprisonment is inimical to their health, as recommended by a physician of the BuCor Hospital and certified by the Department of Health or designated by the Malacañang Clinic Director.
However, PDLs who have been convicted of heinous crimes or illegal drugs-related offenses, or otherwise classified by the BuCor as “high-risk,” would not be eligible for presidential pardon.