CHR Region III commends Guimba District Jail for best practices in ensuring the health and safety of inmates during the Covid-19 pandemic

CHR Region III commends Guimba District Jail for best practices in ensuring the health and safety of inmates during the Covid-19 pandemic

By Alistair T. Tan

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Region III held a simple awarding ceremony on 22
March 2022 to recognize the best practices and initiatives of the Guimba District Jail in the
protection and promotion of the rights of inmates during the pandemic.

Present during the ceremony was Jail Inspector Jose Lennon III, Chief Security and Control, to receive the recognition on behalf of Jail  Chief Inspector Darrel Grazula, Guimba District Jail Warden.

Figure 1. CHR Regional III Officer-in-Charge,  Atty. Leorae Valmonte presents the commendation to Deputy Warden Jose Lennon.

This commendation comes after the regional office’s findings during its unannounced jail visit on 18 January 2022. The jail visitation conducted by CHR Regional Director Atty.  Leorae Valmonte, Senior Investigators (SI) Elmer Maniego, Norberto Fontillas, and Ishmael  Chauhan found that the district jail under the administration of Senior Inspector Grazula has enacted several measures to aid in protecting and promoting both the mental and physical health of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) under their care.

Figure 2. Close-up shot of the commendation

Upon receiving the commendation, Warden Grazula expressed that they were encouraged by the award: “Mas ginanahan po kaming magtrabaho dahil napansin po kami ng other agency like CHR, which we consider as a partner agency na ang ginagawa pa rin po namin ay alinsunod sa karapatang pantao.”

Figure 3. Jail Chief Inspector Darrel Grazula, Guimba District Jail Warden, with the ‘Kakampi’ commendation

PDLs for the longest time have been unable to physically see their loved ones since the start of the pandemic due to the postponement of face-to-face visitations to manage and  prevent the spread of Covid-19.

While the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology’s electronic visitation (e-Dalaw) services were made available to PDLs in Guimba, Warden Grazula stated that there was a significant difference on their overall wellness when they see their loved ones in person. With this in mind, Grazula submitted his proposal entitled “Intercom Visitation” to the local government unit in April 2021. This proposal was also conveyed to CHR Region III during their jail visit in 2021.

Figure 4. Guimba district Jail Warden Grazula leads the jail visitation accompanied by Regional Director Atty. Leorae; shows the “no contact visitation” barriers.

The Guimba jail district became the first jail in the region to restore in-person visitations through its “no contact visitation” program, which required visitors to schedule visits, present proof of vaccination and valid government ID prior to entry. The jail management also implemented infrastructural improvements and the use of plastic barriers. These precautions ensure the protection of the health of inmates while also the restorating visitorial. The program greatly reduced the mental strain on PDLs that have been for so long unable to see their loved ones during the pandemic.

Figure 5. SI Fontillas is shown the recently constructed female dorm rooms

The no contact visitation program together with the construction of the additional female dorm rooms in compliance to the Safe Space Act was made possible by infrastructure improvements to help decongest and improve jail conditions.

Figure 6. Construction of the female dorms in line with the Safe Spaces Act

Pleasantly Surprised

During the January 2022 jail visit, the CHR Region III investigation team were pleasantly surprised at the infrastructural changes to the jail facilities and the initiatives done by the jail management.

CHR Region III commended the best practices of the Guimba District Jail through the issuance of Obligasyon at Karapatan (OK) Card and Kakampi Certificate, which are campaign programs of the Commission to recognize efforts of government agencies that uphold human rights. Aside from the positive impact of the “no contact visitation,” the Guimba jail management also ensured that all PDLs and BJMP personnel were fully vaccinated and have registered to the Philippine Statistic Authority National Identification System.

Figure 7. Establishment of the no contact visitation area completed on 10 December 2021

Continuing Cooperation and Partnership

In his letter dated 11 February 2022, the Warden expressed his gratitude for the recognition and invited CHR to give a lecture on the Guidelines and Procedures in the Investigation and Monitoring of Human Rights Violations and Abuses, the Provision of CHR Assistance, and Republic Act no. 9745 or the so-called Anti-Torture Law of 2009.

Figure 8. Guimba District Jail appreciation letter and lecture invitation to CHR Region III

Grazula shared that the commendation he received from the Commission inspired other wardens to follow suit and to implement similar best practices to be recognized as well. SI Fontillas explained that simple positive reinforcement, such as giving commendation through an OK Card, is helpful in encouraging best practices and enhancing partnership between the CHR and government agencies, which ultimately benefits the vulnerable sectors.

Among the mandates of the Commission is the exercise of its visitorial powers over detention facilities and jails. This is done regularly to ensure the rights and welfare of PDLs through improvement in the condition of facilities and other programs that fulfil the standards set by the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.###