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Taking custody seriously

The Commission on Human Rights was “gravely alarmed” at a recent report from the Bureau of Corrections that said three to four persons have died in their custody every day, for this year alone.

It urged government to look into the welfare and situation of inmates at its facilities across the country, after the report revealed that a record-breaking 1,166 out of 48,501 persons deprived of liberty died in BuCor custody last year, the highest in 32 years.

CHR Chair Richard Palpal-latoc said the numbers “depict a cruel reality for [PDLs or inmates] across the country,” as they suffer from overcrowded detention facilities, poor hygiene and ventilation issues, that endanger their safety. He reminded the national government of its national and local obligations to uphold the welfare of convicted people through a humane correctional system.

“If these continue to be neglected, the country may be at serious risk of betraying its international commitments,” he warned.

Palpal-latoc called on the national government, to, among others, prioritize and expedite decongestion efforts such as the speedy disposition of cases for nonviolent, nonserious offenders; granting executive clemency for qualified detainees; and the immediate review of cases of individuals allegedly being targeted because of their political affiliations.

He also urged the government to establish a National Preventive Mechanism through legislation to address jail conditions that may be tantamount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Inhuman living conditions in overcrowded jails all over the country have certainly contributed to decreased life expectancies of inmates. However, aside from that, an unusually high number of fatalities were recorded under recently-relieved Director General Gerald Bantag, including several high profile inmates that conveniently “died” within three weeks of each other, allegedly because of COVID-19.

The Philippine government, through the Bureau of Corrections, needs to do better to ensure that the people whose lives they have taken custody of and are therefore responsible for are treated humanely and kept safe from all threats and dangers while under the its care.*

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November 2022
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