New BuCor Chief: Rehabilitation is Bilibid's primary mission

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Benjamin delos Santos wants to strengthen the rehabilitation of inmates of the national penitentiary as part of his drive to clean up the graft-ridden New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

"We're supposed to bring back to the community a rehabilitated and reformed inmate," he said on The Source Tuesday. "So I would like to refocus and accentuate on the positive, to show what actually we're doing on the rehabilitation side. And I believe we could move to really change the system."

 

To achieve this, delos Santos said his agency is working with non-governmental organizations and religious groups to help teach livelihood skills and initiate "moral transformation" among the inmates.

"We come in on the safety side to secure them and reform them so that they could go back to society as a free man, capable again of being useful to society," delos Santos said.

What's going on in the NBP?

The NBP has been the subject of close scrutiny, including congressional hearings on the illegal drug trade inside the prison, since the start of President Rodrigo Duterte's war on narcotics.

The President had said that drug lords operating within the penitentiary — supposedly in collusion with prison authorities — have not only contributed to the country's growing drug problem, but have also funded political campaigns.

The most notable case is that of Sen. Leila De Lima — the former Justice Secretary — who is accused of accepting money from drug lords to fund her 2016 senatorial campaign. Her accusers include Duterte, NBP inmates and drug lords.

Read: Witness: We were forced to sell drugs to fund De Lima campaign

De Lima has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Read: De Lima willing to be shot if drug links proven

She and seven others are currently facing drugs charges at the Department of Justice.

Read: De Lima, 7 others face drug complaint before DOJ

Modernization law by next year

Delos Santos said the immediate implementation of Republic Act 10575 or "The Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013" that former President Benigno Aquino III signed into law will help in dealing with the problems in the NBP.

"Could you imagine a penitentiary that is only capable of accommodating 5,000 inmates has now grown into almost 24,000 inmates," he said. "That includes medium, maximum and minimum (security wards). So the ratio now is one prison guard to 62 (inmates)."

R.A. 10575 calls for BuCor facilities to have one guard for every seven inmates. It calls for the standardization and modernization of BuCor facilities and guidelines for the treatment and rehabilitation of prisoners.

However, delos Santos said the law has not been implemented because funding has not been provided by the Department of Budget and Management.

 

"That's very unfortunate, but the good news is we have a good Secretary now who's pushing for the immediate implementation," he said. "And hopefully, by early next year, we will have a new modernization law, properly funded, sufficient budget, to support all capital outlays and other recommendations."

Social media as whistleblower's channel

Delos Santos also said another reform he wants to implement is opening the NBP up to netizens.

"I plan to use social media platforms to open up to the public because the mindset of people is that once you're in prison, you seem to be like an outcast," he said. "So by going to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, people see especially the reform programs that we're doing. I've instructed our PIO (public information officer) to create a Facebook page because it will double as our whistleblower vehicle."