Jail conditions are inhuman and degrading, standards on treatment of prisoners remain ink on paper – Karapatan

“Prisoners are neither okay nor comfortable. The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology’s (BJMP’s) budget per inmate is a meager PhP50 per day, an amount insufficient in providing quality and decent meals and at times subject of corruption by jail officials. Under the Duterte regime, two political prisoners have already died because of grave conditions behind bars, along with scores of other ordinary inmates. There is nothing to be happy about compounding the degrading and inhuman situation already endured by prisoners,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said on President Rodrigo Duterte’s expression of satisfaction in jail conditions in his visit to Camp Bagong Diwa jails yesterday, October 18. 

According to the Institute for Criminal Policy Research in London, the Philippines ranks third in having the most crowded jails in the world. This is made worse by the Duterte regime’s drug war campaign which, according to the BJMP, imprisoned 137, 417 new inmates as of June 2017. 

Palabay cited the manifesto forwarded by political prisoners in Camp Bagong Diwa last October 10, 2017, detailing the failure of government to meet prison conditions as specified in the UN Standard Minimum Rules on Treatment of Prisoners (SMRTP), the current situation of overcrowding in various jails in Metro Manila, the inadequate and unhealthy food, among other situations that have worsened prison conditions. 

The manifesto underscored the rights of detained persons as stated in international instruments such as the SMRTP that are reinforced by national laws, including RA 7438 or the Certain Rights of Persons Arrested, Detained and Under Custodial Investigation and RA 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009. “These laws and agreements have remained as ink on paper, largely not implemented by the government. The treatment that prisoners experience inside jails, concretized by severe overcrowding, low-quality food, among others, is undoubtedly cruel and degrading,” added Palabay. 

Palabay also raised the issue of political prisoners who are languishing in various jails in the country, adding that the injustice they are enduring due to prison conditions are compounded by the continued political repression inside jails. 

“Political prisoners, considered as “high risk”, have their rights severely curtailed. Their involvement in advocacies has already been criminalized, and even their movements inside jails are oftentimes under surveillance. PPs were illegally arrested by virtue of trumped-up charges, defective warrants, and dubious accounts, yet they continue to languish in prison because of our snail-paced justice system and the Dueterte regime’s refusal to adhere to its obligations under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), or any inkling of according justice to those unjustly prosecuted and persecuted by previous and current regimes,” she said. 

In the said manifesto, political prisoners recommended the adherence of the Philippine Government to signed agreements relating to the quality of prison conditions, an end to counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan which sanctions the filing of trumped-up charges and the illegal arrest of activists and members of progressive organizations, the release of political prisoners through a general and unconditional amnesty, and the immediate release of prisoners on humanitarian grounds. 

“There is a double standard even in prison. Rich and powerful inmates are accorded privileges that spare them from the harsh and inhuman conditions behind bars. It is outrageous to see plunderers and politicians being allowed to post bail after months in air-conditioned rooms, while majority have to scramble like sardines in hot, unventilated spaces for years. We echo the recommendations forwarded by political prisoners, and continue to push the Duterte regime for their immediate release. There is no comfort nor reprieve in being jailed for your political beliefs and for crimes you are innocent of, only injustice,” concluded Palabay.


Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-979058