It seemed that we have no viable and lasting solution to our drug problem; and the sad reality is that there is so much killing and bickering among our leaders on how to combat our drug menace. Worse, even our top leadership has no apparent and logical plan to succeed in this endeavor, We do not have the luxury of time by our indecision and inaction. Let us consider these hard realities that confront us now:
Congested jail in the Philippines
SERIOUS DRUG MENACE:
There are 3 million current drug users in the Philippines or 3% of the total population of 100.98 million, results of the Dangerous Drugs Board survey.
More than 8,629 or 20.5 percent of the 42,065 barangays nationwide have drug related cases.
There have been killings not only by the police but by some groups, like vigilantes or by drug lords themselves, in an effort to cut their ties with their pushers and assets, and some 3,000 (still rising day-by-day) have already been killed, and if we still give the government another six months, more will be killed. We cannot kill all the drug users and peddlers to solve our problem on illegal drugs! As long there’s demand for illegal drugs, the drug menace will be here with us…
Duterte himself is helpless and do not know how to end his “war on drugs”. In his speech before troops of the 9th Infantry Division at Camp Elias Angeles in Camarines Sur, September 21, 2016, Duterte justified killing of users and pushers because, according to him, “the technicality of the law makes hard for me to deal with the drug problem.”
(IMAGINE A PRESIDENT LEADING US TO WAR WITHOUT KNOWING HOW TO END THE WAR?!!?)
According to the PNP, from July 1 to September 5, 2016, some 1,027 suspects were killed during police operations. As of Monday, September 19, data from the PNP shows that 17,759 suspected drug personalities have been arrested under Oplan Double Barrel and more than 800,000 “surrendered voluntarily to the police. The death toll constitutes a more than fifteen-fold jump over the 68 police killings recorded between January 1 to June 15, a period of more than five months.
JAIL CONGESTION AND COST OF INMATE MAINTENANCE:
Imagine five prisoners crammed into one square meter of jail space.
Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto cited the congestion rate in the four most tightly-packed jails in the country in prodding government to initiate reforms in the country's penal system which, with 135,000 inmates, are almost at four times their capacity. Recto said it is no longer accurate to call our prisons "parang sardinas sa sikip." The correct term, he said, is "daig pa ang siniksik na longganisa."
In a resolution, Recto urged the Senate to probe "the worsening conditions" in the country's prisons which will cost taxpayers P10.1 billion to maintain this year.
Another compelling reason why prisons must be reformed is their expected intake of thousands of new inmates, Recto said.
With the administration's war on crime and illegal drugs netting thousands, many of whom may be jail-bound, "there's a need to find space for them because our standing-room-only prisons are filled to the rafters," Recto said.
Two government agencies run the "prison republic" - the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), which is under the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), which is attached to the Department of Justice.
Detainees awaiting trial and those who have been sentenced by the courts to serve time for three years and below are committed to BJMP. It had 93,961 detainees under its care in September last year. Those who have been sentenced to more than three years and one day in prison are sent to eight BuCor facilities. More than half, or 23,749 of BuCor's 2016 prisoner population of 41,207 are in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.
BJMP jails are 397 percent over capacity, Recto said. "Cells built for 18,881 prisoners now house 93,961." Prison manuals call for an ideal cell space of 4.7 square meters per detainee but based on official BJMP reports, the national average is 1 square meter per BJMP detainee. Citing BJMP data, Recto said the top four most congested BJMP jails - in Malolos City, Bulacan; San Pedro, Laguna; General Trias, Cavite; and the female dormitory of Quezon City Jail - have a congestion rate of 2,000 percent. 575 women prisoners in the Quezon City jail are packed into 129 square meters of cell space built for 27, according to the same report Recto cited. Those ranked 4 to 20 in the list of the most congested BJMP jails have congestion rates of 1,425 percent to 1,765 percent, the senator said.
Over at the BuCor, New Bilibid Prisons reported a congestion rate of 181 percent with 23,749 prisoners staying in the old facility designed to house 8,460. The Davao Penal Colony, with 6,274 prisoners, has a congestion rate of 265 percent while the Leyte Regional Prison, home to 1,919, said it is 304 percent over capacity. Overall, BuCor said its overcapacity rate this year is 158 percent.
In the resolution he filed, Recto warned that "deteriorating living conditions in jails and prisons expose detainees and inmates to hazards like the onset of infectious disease epidemic, higher suicide rates, frequent inter-prisoner violence. "Overcrowding and other problems in the Philippine corrections system could affect the security of the government jail and prison custodians, provide opportunities for acts of corruption, and cause the violation of the normative standards of jail and prison management," he added.
"Instead of rehabilitating prisoners, harsh jail conditions could make them hardened criminals, with jails serving as masteral schools for a career in crime," Recto stressed.
Jail and prison congestion, he said, can be eased by reforming the justice system "so that there will be fast trials, minimum court hearing postponements."
"Yung iba, sampung taon na sa kulungan sa bagal ng usad ng kaso dahil kulang ang judges o tambak ang trabaho nila. Di rin sapat ang PAO lawyers. Pati prosecutors kulang din."
JUDICIAL COST FROM ARRAIGNMENT TO SENTENCING:
From 2002 to 2014, 106,092 drug cases were filed, but only 5,265 or 5 percent resulted in conviction. Around 19,585 or 18.46 percent were settled. A total of 9,051 or 8 percent led to acquittal and 5,269 or 5 percent to dismissal. The usual reason for the dismissal or acquittal was the failure of the arresting officer to comply with the requirements of R.A. 9165.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Phil. has the highest number of pre-trial detainees in Southeast Asia. Carlos Conde, HRW researcher in the Philippines wrote: “Corrupt and incompetent investigators and prosecutors, a judicial and court system clogged with too many cases, and too few judges to try them. These institutional pathologies result in unjust and prolonged detention.”
According to the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, pre-trial detainees make up 64% of the country’s population and 50% of detainees are charged with drug-related cases, a non-bailable offense, and if bailable, the amount of bail is unconscionable amounting to denial of the right. Every year, there is an average increase of prisoners between three and 10%.
With President Duterte’s war on drugs and other criminalities, jail population is expected to increase, and there is a need to increase food allowance and expansion of jail areas. Not to mention the cost of judicial prosecution and punishment of detained prisoners who can’t afford a highly unconscionable bail, starting from their arraignment, hearing on the merits of their cases up to sentencing. The government provides lawyers to the poor litigants, normally the PAO. The bottom line is drug cases which unduly clogged court dockets cost the government during their detention (P10-B a yr); and judicial cost (estimated to be P200,000.00 per accused-detainee, which includes salaries of PAO lawyers, prosecutors, judges; from arraignment to sentencing.
Here is the sad reality: 800,000 users and addicts have surrendered as of September, 2016, and there are only 15 rehabilitation centers administered by the DOH, Only 3,000 addicts are being rehabilitated, and with the construction of the 10,000 bed capacity in Nueva Ecija, still we are far away from completely rehabilitating drug addicts..
IS HARSHER ENORCEMENT OF DRUG LAWS SOLUTION TO A GROWING DRUG MENACE?
There is no evidence that tough enforcement of the drug laws on personal possession leads to lower levels of drug use, and examining international drug laws has put an end to 40 years of almost unbroken political rhetoric that only harsher penalties can tackle the problem caused by the likes of heroin, cocaine or cannabis.
The Philippines has the highest abuse rate for methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu in East Asia, according to the latest United Nations World Drug Report. It also disclosed that 2.1 percent of Filipinos aged 16 to 64 were using shabu, and “domestic consumption of shabu and marijuana continued to be the main drug threats in the Philippines.
A LOOK ON MEXICO’S HARSHER DRUG LAWS:
This underdevelopment becomes both cause and effect of Mexico’s culture of impunity. Now more than ever Mexico must rewrite its criminal code or risk becoming a narco-state, where the only authorities will be the drug cartels.
The violence is already placing substantial strains upon Mexico’s understaffed and overwhelmed legal system. Since President Calderon began his nationwide crackdown on drug cartels in December 2006, over 23000 people have died, including 3,500 deaths so far this year- and it’s only getting worse. Additionally, over 50,000 suspects have been detained. As the government continues its battle against drug cartels, weapon smugglers, corruption, and other social ills, thousands more will be arrested, and thousands more will perish.
MEXICO NO PLEA BARGAINING:
As a result, the balancing act that every society confronts-between individual rights and societal security-has been completely perverted in Mexico. All too often Mexico’s criminal justice system facilitates torture and police abuse from those too helpless too poor, while failing to actually combat crime. More than any drug cartel or criminal organization, Mexico’s teetering criminal justice has been the biggest contributor to its absolute rate of impunity. To illustrate, while 95% of all convictions in the United States end in plea bargains, in Mexico this procedure is largely unavailable. The inefficiency of not allowing plea bargains has been a major factor behind astronomical levels of impunity because there simply are not enough courtrooms or prosecutors to try every criminal.
PHILIPPINES ADOPTS A HARSHER DRUG LAWS THAN OTHER COUNTRIES:
As penalty under Republic Act 9165, the unauthorized SALE of shabu, regardless of its quantity and purity, carries with it the penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from P500,000.00 to P10,000,000.00, and a person charged for selling illegal drugs is prohibited from posting bail.
For POSSESSION of shabu less than five grams, that person shall be sentenced to 12 years and eight months, as minimum, to 17 years and eight months, as maximum, and a fine of P300,000.00. He is allowed to post bail in the amount of P200,000.00.
In both cases, a person charged either for SELLING or POSSESSION who cannot post bail remains in jail pending the hearing of his case.
Napoleon B. Arenas, Jr, Dagupan City; Your comment to firstname.lastname@example.org