File photo of a jail in Quezon City under the supervision of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP). PHOTO BY RESEARCHER /NINO JESUS ​​​​ORBETA

The Bureau of Prison Management and Penology (BJMP) has allowed the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), among others, to review its rules on prison management, anti-torture efforts and decongestion, in a new agreement that aims to improve the human rights situation in a institution prone to abuse and unworthy conditions for prisoners.

On Monday, agencies led by CHR Chairman Richard Palpal-latoc and BJMP Director Ruel Rivera signed a five-year agreement to collaborate more closely through human rights training and joint projects to improve the welfare of inmates in BJMP facilities.

“This is the first time that the CDH and the BJMP have signed an agreement that addresses the rights of PDL (persons deprived of liberty), and [the] the immediate objective is to train BJMP personnel in the human rights aspect of their work,” said Palpal-latoc.

Among the salient features of the agreement, which will come into force until December 31, 2028, is the review of BJMP measures and aligning them with international rights standards such as the Mandela Rules against torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners .

Drafted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the rules are “based on the obligation to treat all prisoners with respect for their inherent dignity and worth as human beings, and to prohibit torture and other forms of ill-treatment.”

Palpal-latoc said he would also create an anti-torture mechanism to minimize this punitive practice against prisoners.

Decongestion

The CHR and BJMP will also work on decongestion activities to alleviate overcrowding in Philippine prisons, often ranked as “one of the most congested in the world.”

Palpal-latoc added that he hopes to accelerate decongestion efforts by identifying inmates who have overstayed their stay and possibly intervening in cases of elderly and sick inmates.

Rivera said the national congestion rate of Philippine prisons was 358 percent.

The provinces in the Calabarzon region (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) have congestion rates that are reportedly above the national rate.

Specifically, Rivera flagged the situation at the 110-square-meter San Mateo Municipal Jail in Rizal province, which has a current congestion rate of 2,091 percent.


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Rivera said he had already asked San Mateo Mayor Omie Rivera to donate at least 1,600 square feet of land, as well as funding for the construction of new facilities. INQ



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