Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the Philippine National Police’s call for CHR to help in addressing jail congestion problems

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the Philippine National Police’s call for CHR to help in addressing jail congestion problems

Problems on jail congestion in the Philippines goes beyond challenges in infrastructure. It represents a larger and deeper problem on how the government regards human rights, including for those who have run in conflict with the law.

The fact is that, throughout the years, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has done more than lobbying to address the worsening problem of jail congestion in the country. The Commission, in line with its mandate of continuing research to enhance the respect for the primacy of human rights, to demonstrate, has partnered with National Capital Region (NCR) Police Office of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in 2015 to study the human rights situation in police lock-up cells in NCR.

The study explains that there are several reasons that cause congestion—delayed issuance of commitment orders; slow disposition of cases or protracted trials; small lock-up cells; inability to post bail by the detainees; and sudden influx of arrested suspects to name a few.

While not completely attributable to law enforcers, the deplorable conditions are, however, further aggravated by the failure of the government, including police officers, to faithfully comply with even the minimum human rights standards and laws, such as the Anti-Torture Act (RA 9745), meant to safeguard human rights at all times. Reports of torture, ill-treatment, and use of force continue to be reported, such as the case of the secret detention cell uncovered by CHR in 2017 in Raxabago Manila Police District Station 1 and continuing questions on arrests related to the anti-drug campaign.

CHR has already issued policy advisories and position papers to guide the government, including the PNP, towards preventing human rights violations. These documents include: an advisory on the right to adequate food of PNP detainees; an advisory on the PNP’s compliance on the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners; an advisory on the lack of standard police stations and lockup cells in some municipalities and cities; an advisory on human rights-based approach training of PNP personnel in handling detainees; and a position paper supporting the PNP modernisation bill.

There is also a continuing partnership between CHR and the UP Women Lawyers Circle, alongside the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, geared towards establishing a digitised database for legal assistance in helping facilitate decongestion in jails and other detention facilities.

The Commission reminds the government of its undisputed primary obligation to promote and protect human rights. It is a duty, which the people expect from its government to uphold, without excuse. For the Constitution is clear that the State is mandated to value the dignity of every human person and guarantee full respect for human rights.

The Commission stresses that a person’s dignity does not diminish under any circumstance. In this light, the we shall be faithful to its mandate of being a watchdog against human rights violations and be willing to extend partnership to government in addressing challenges so that human rights standards and laws are observed at all times. ###