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Cramped, are we not?

tacloban-city-jail-grounds

The Tacloban City Jail-Male Dormitory has been, and per statistics, will continue to be, the largest in BJMP-RO8 in terms of the number of Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDL) in its custody. In the immediately preceding year, it recorded an average increase in PDL population of 2.1% per month. Despite the average monthly increase in PDL population of only .19% this first quarter compared to the 2.6% it recorded during the same period in the immediately preceding year it is unarguably apparent nonetheless, that the PDL population of the jail facility will continue to increase and with a relatively the same detention cell area to accommodate these PDLs, the living condition will eventually be intolerable unless some measures are adopted as early as possible. As of this writing, it has a total of 1,035 PDLs in custody in a total detention cell area ideal for only up to 150 PDLs per UN standard of 4.7 sqm per PDL.

It is interesting to note that the City Jail is mandated by law to take custody only of PDLs undergoing trial and/or investigation before a court of law, awaiting final judgment and those serving sentence of not more than three (3) years. Jurisdiction over PDLs sentenced to more than three years imprisonment, also called Insular Prisoners, belongs to the Bureau of Corrections and their remand thereto is effected by the BJMP with haste. Consequently, you may be inclined to think that, because of such mandate PDLs stay or remain in the custody of the City Jail for no more than three years. Ideally, it should be the case. In reality however, many of the PDLs remain in the custody of the City Jail for more than three years before their respective cases are finally disposed of by the courts. In fact, 34% of the current PDL population of the jail has been in its custody for more than three years.

Logically speaking, this PDL congestion problem may be solved in either or a combination of two ways: one, consistently increasing the average number of PDL being released from its custody in such a way that it is more than the average number of PDL it receives, in other words, more PDLs taken out than those taken in; and/or, two, increase the detention cell area of the jail facility through the construction of additional cell buildings and/or the conversion to multi-storey cell buildings of the jail's current cell buildings vis-à-vis the PDL population growth rate. The first option is a lot trickier than the second because it is dependent with the courts. Let us remember that Section 3 Rule 114 of the Revised Rules in Criminal Procedure says that "No person under detention by legal process shall be released or transferred except upon order of the court or when he is admitted to bail." And let us accept the fact that almost all of the PDLs in custody whose cases are bailable do not have the financial capacity to post the required bail bond and the courts are likewise congested with cases (criminal and civil cases) hindering them to dispose with haste the cases of these PDLs.

So how is this PDL congestion problem, a similar concern of many other jails nationwide, presently being addressed by the BJMP? The BJMP has approached this problem with a combination of the said two options, that is, the more aggressive implementation of its decongestion program through Paralegal assistance to PDLs to assist the courts in the faster disposition of their cases and/or for their temporary liberty through modes recognized by law and rules, and, the construction of additional cell buildings. In fact, there is currently at least six cell buildings construction in the different jails in BJMP-RO8 but unfortunately none in Tacloban City Jail because the lot in which it is currently situated has not yet been donated by the Local Government to the BJMP and the latter has a policy against the construction of new cell buildings or other structures on lots technically not owned by the BJMP.

But all is not without hope. Lately, J/SUPT MANUEL O CHAN, JR., the incumbent City Jail Warden of Tacloban City Jail-Male Dormitory, has been aggressively making representation and negotiation with the Hon. Ma. Cristina G. Romualdez, Tacloban City Mayor, for the execution of a Deed of Donation in favor of the BJMP covering the land in which the jail facility is currently situated or some other lot in an equally favorable location so that Type-A Cell Buildings can finally be included in the funding for FY 2019 and its construction commenced on same year to address this pressing concern on PDL congestion. The City of Government of Tacloban is actually contemplating of transferring the jail facility to some other location pursuant to its development plan/s.

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