Press Release
September 25, 2019

Senate Pres. Vicente C. Sotto III
September 25, 2019

Evil, it has been said, thrives in the dark. Crime and punishment have sought the comfort that darkness gives. The thief seeks the night, though in these millennial times, it doesn't matter anymore. Crime happens in broad daylight.

Punishment, the requirement of reason and justice in payment of crime, also seeks darkness. We have all been kept in the dark as to what goes on inside the forbidding walls of our National Penitentiary Facility at Muntinlupa. It was the searchlight emanating from the power of Congress to inquire into the state of things that we are finally able to make sense of the shadows that lurk behind the walls of our prisons. Dati rati ay mga tsismis lamang. In light of the legislative inquiry and investigations, we have parted the curtains behind the dungeons where we are supposed to rehabilitate our prisoners. We now know that our system does not work.

A few years ago, we were given a hint of what goes on behind those walls. We thought it was prison. It turned out to be a village where a new moral code was in place. It was a world turned upside down; where the prisoners were also rulers, given the power of money and influence.

But just as what any reform movement needs, we must go back to basics. Let us not mix apples and oranges. The hardened criminals should not be in a position to further aggravate the ones who still have hope in their hearts to be productive members of society.

My thesis, Mr. President, is that we must differentiate the system of rehabilitating the hopeless from the hopeful. Ihiwalay ang mga bulok na manga sa mga bagong pitas.

Mr. President, the purpose of this bill, other than to decongest existing penal institutions and accommodate the increasing number of inmates committed to the existing prison and penal farms, is to prevent the taking advantage of lax general rules for all inmates that allow these high-level offenders to continue their nefarious activities. This measure shall likewise "regionalize" the maximum penal institution by establishing this penal institution in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, and shall provide a more secured and state-of-the-art facility.

Prison location, and the soundness of the facility in terms of infrastructures or security protocols greatly affect the government's ability to incapacitate as well as to rehabilitate prisoners. These factors dictate the effective removal of the offender from the society thus, incapacitating prisoners from committing further crimes; and, at the same time, bring them closer to their families - which could help in their rehabilitation.

With the overwhelming revelations on the state of corruption in the Bureau of Corrections, the appalling condition of our inmates and the poor quality of our prison facilities, there is no appropriate time to correct these but now. I, therefore, urge this body to support the immediate passage of this proposed measure.

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