DAVAO CITY, Philippines— Senator Leila de Lima has called on Senator Richard Gordon to probe the “extreme problem of congestion” in the country’s jails and penitentiaries.

“This extreme overcrowding of prisoners in jails breeds a number of severe problems in jail management, including illness and poor hygiene among inmates, substandard sleeping accommodation, lack of food provision, among others,” De Lima said in a statement Thursday.

The jail congestion, she emphasized, has encouraged the proliferation of illegal activities among the inmates.

De Lima, a vocal critic of the Duterte administration, has sent a letter to Sen. Gordon, asking him to prioritize Senate Resolution No. 97 which seeks an inquiry in aid of legislation into the current state of jails and penitentiaries all over the country.

“We hope that the committee will give this matter the attention and priority that it deserves, given its utmost importance and urgency, beginning with scheduling hearings for the purpose of identifying the extent of the problem and possible remedial legislative measures to address it in the short-, medium- and long-term,” De Lima said.

Gordon chairs the Senate Justice and Human Rights Committee. He was picked to replace De Lima back in September 2016 following her ouster through a majority vote in the wake of the Senate probe on extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration.

De Lima, former secretary of the Department of Justice, is seeking to institute “remedial measures that would ensure that the government accomplishes the goals of the penal and detention systems, including the protection of the rights and welfare of persons deprived of liberty.”

“There is likewise a steady source of tension and hostility among prisoners who are cramped into congested cell areas. Most gang wars erupt despite the presence of jail guards who often lack professional training,” she added.

In 2015, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology accounted 93,961 prisoners. She explained that the number represents 398 percent congestion rate in all the 461 jails in the country today, while the Bureau of Corrections with 41,144 inmates in its seven prison and penal farms.

“They (inmates) may have transgressed the bounds of laws and rules of our society, but prisoners are still human beings who deserve to enjoy the basic rights to live decently and with dignity,” she pointed out.

At early 2016, the Philippines has been ranked 12th in the world with a prison population of 142,168, based on the World Prison Brief of the London-based International Centre for Prison Studies.

“Such appalling image depicts the deplorable state of jail and penitentiaries where prisoners suffer more severe penalty of horrific and barbaric living condition than the actual penalty that is supposed to be meted out for crimes they have committed,” she said. (davaotoday.com)

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