CORRECTIVE SERVICE IN THE PHILIPPINES
The Philippine Criminal Justice administration has defined the pursuit of public safety in terms of how agencies interact in the face of present day challenges. There is the law enforcement through the Philippine National Police; prosecution through the Prosecution service; the courts through the Supreme Court; corrections through various correctional agencies and the community through the social services department.
The perplexing side of this governmental equation pertaining public safety however can be viewed not only on the level of performance but more on the perspective of organization. While it can be said that all pillars of the criminal justice system express its mission through an agency, that is, in the corrective side, there are numerous institutions overlapping, duplicating and even haggling for rules without any standard at all. While there is only one clientele involved—the person under custody of law, whether detainee or convicted, there are several agencies dealing on this sector and yet unrelated to one another. There is the lock up in the municipal level, detention centers in city and provincial jails and prisons. (Not mention the fact that there are agencies with custodial functions like all major services of AFP, Immigration Bureau, NBI, etc) Each of this area is managed by several organizations. Most municipal jails are still under PNP control including a number of city jails. City jails under the present set-up are supervised by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology. Prisons are under the Bureau of Corrections. Probationers and parolees are directly supervised by the Parole and Probation Administration. The youth offenders are under a separate executive department. There is indeed a mix up, a confused angle when it comes to the treatment of the unsentenced and sentenced persons. Worst, on those institutionally bound persons, the detainees and convicts, there are no standards at all on their treatment. It is therefore unfortunate since human right is a principle expected to be enforced in a milieu which does not even have a decent rule on its application.
Note that the nomenclature of one agency—Bureau of Corrections—is even misleading. Corrections presuppose institutional and non-institutional services. By institutional is meant that all lock-ups, detention centers, custodial facilities, jails and prisons are lumped under this category. By non-institutional we have probation, parole and those under similar circumstance. Both institutional and non-institutional corrective service ideally must be embraced by an organization, under the Bureau of Corrections strictly speaking. But in reality it is not. The Bureau of Corrections is only in charge of prison, for convicted persons only, specifically, those with sentence more than three years in the maximum period. Convicted offenders with penalties below three years are either serving time in city or provincial jails. These are clearly a concern outside of the Bureau of Corrections. Yet as the name of the agency suggests, Bureau of Corrections, it is a clear mandate.
Recent developments do not encourage any progress along this line. The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology has even submitted a plan to absorb a provincial jail under its wings as what happened in Bataan province. It is as awkward in the sense like that of an elementary school trying to govern a secondary facility using the level and formula it applies as if it is a political subdivision to be cornered.
Other Asean nations have advanced considerably with policies on treatment of those under custody of law with the passage of their respective Corrections Act. In the Philippines, corrections, the entire spectrum of it, is still basically under the Prison Law of 1917 yet. For the last 30 years, there is even no law passed pertaining to and related on corrections. Corrections still, as it were, operate on laws passed during the Commonwealth years.
As long as this is incumbent in the setting of the Philippine criminal justice system, there will always be failure in the delivery of justice and the competence of applying the precepts of fairness, human rights and rehabilitation will constantly haunt the very foundation of decency in government service in as far as peace and order or public safety is concerned.
There is one option left to cure this defect in the criminal justice equation. And this means that a law should be passed on the formation of a Department of Corrections.
Setting this aside, one gets a chilling picture of public safety. Without a national standard in the treatment of those under custody of law, we literally allow abuses, cruelty, neglect, ill-treatment, maltreatment, exploitation and violence to happen. And then, much like an idiot asking why he was crying, the free society is left on the mercy of the low life with direct experiential background of being incarcerated. The intensity of crime, even its heinous component will forever haunt a peace loving citizen until society is overtaken by the growing population of those who hated government because they were never attended at all.
I submit therefore the enactment of a Corrections Act and the establishment of a Department of Corrections. While there is still time.