Call for Transparency and Accountability in Philippine Prisons

When prisoners are given unwarranted privileges, continue their illicit business from prison, or are surreptitiously and illegally freed, grave injustice is done to the victims, law enforcers, and lawyers (as prosecutor, defense counsel, or judge) who invested time, effort and resources, even at great risk to their security, to put criminals in jail. The rule of law is subverted and the public is betrayed.

A porous, inefficient, corrupt, and scandal-ridden prison system wipes out any remaining trust that citizens may have in our criminal justice system.

We support a thorough investigation of the many reported anomalies in our prisons, including the latest questioned deaths of high-profile inmates due to COVID 19. We call for strict accountability beyond the investigations. Unless erring prison officers are promptly removed, prosecuted, and put in jail, the sorry state of our prisons will continue or will even get worse.

It may be timely to check whether or not our prisons comply with the UN Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners and adequately achieves the objectives of deterrence, restraint, reformation, retribution, and restoration.

The Data Privacy Law should not be misused to blur the accountability of public officers, thwart the constitutional right to information on matters of public concern, or disregard the personal interest of the victims and all those who labored to hold the guilty liable. Transparency should instead be promoted to help heal and disinfect our seriously ailing prison system.

Sociologists remind us that the state of our prison system reflects the state of our government and of our society.

IBP National President and Chairman of the 24th Board of Governors