With its day-to-day operations still based on the Prison Law of 1917, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) is in dire need of an overhaul to cope with the modern demands of penology.
Senator Chiz Escudero thus filed Senate Bill No. 2933, seeking for the modernization and professionalization of the country’s national correction facility to make it compliant with the United Nations (UN) standards.
Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said the present state of BuCor is in subhuman conditions and rather than being reformatory, Philippine jails have become more punitive, which runs contrary to penology standards set by the UN.
“BuCor has been running in obsolescence. Its laws, facilities and equipment, and organizational structures are all outdated and outmoded. It needs to be restructured so it can be as efficient and as effective to implement its mandate on day-to-day operations,” Escudero said.
BuCor has not seen a major legislative updating since 1905, except for a change in its name –formerly called the Bureau of Prisons – pursuant to the Revised Administrative Code of 1987.
In 2009, the inmate population was at 35,400 and manned by 2, 632 employees, or a prison-guard to inmate ratio of 1:81. The international standard of guard-inmate ratio is 1:6.
The agency has the same number of employees it had since 1989. The ratio is continuously increasing at an average rate of five percent annually.
“The BuCor was created specifically to be in charge of safekeeping and instituting reformation programs to national inmates sentenced to more than three years. Reform isn’t anywhere with its dilapidated facilities, congested prisons and archaic operational system and structure,” the senator explained.
In his bill, Escudero is pushing for the safekeeping of inmates that shall include decent provisions of quarters, food, water and clothing in compliance with established UN standards.
Likewise, BuCor’s custodial force consisting of corrections officers will be undertaken with a ranking system and salary grades similar to its counterpart in the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).
BuCor lags miserably behind BJMP in terms of personnel remuneration. Entry level for a jail officer at BJMP is Salary Grade (SG) 10, while its counterpart at BuCor receives a salary equivalent to the pay of SG 5. Unlike BJMP, BuCor custodial personnel are not considered uniformed and therefore are not entitled to salary increases, bonuses and other standard benefits.
“Promotion system in this agency has also been subjective. There are prison guards who are retiring after 40 years or more in service without having a taste of promotion,” Escudero said.
Escudero added that BuCor can only achieve modernization and professionalization if its facilities are upgraded, the number of its personnel increased, the level of qualifications of their personnel upgraded and its base pay, retirement and other benefits are standardized.