THE House of Representatives has endorsed for Senate approval the proposed Contraband Detection and Control System Act, which aims to eliminate excuses for jail guards, wardens, and custodial officers involved in the smuggling of contraband, such as mobile phones, illegal drugs, guns, knives, and more, within detention facilities nationwide.
If enacted into law, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said HB 6126, or the Contraband Detection and Control System Act, mandates all prison and detention facilities to implement extensive contraband interdiction procedures through the employment of modern detection devices, units, and technologies to cut the flow of prohibited objects or items inside all penal institutions. Barbers is chairman of the Justice committee.
HB 6126 was approved by the lower chamber last week.
“Instances of contraband discovery during routine sweeps, like ‘Oplan Galugad,’ often reveal various illegal items, including drugs, mobile phones, knives, firearms, and other contraband. Our prison guards frequently find excuses during such operations. This bill aims to put an end to that,” said Barbers.
Citing the Bureau of Corrections’ “Oplan Galugad” in October 2022, which uncovered a significant amount of contraband in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), Barbers emphasized the need for stringent measures. The operation seized thousands of cans of beer, shabu, and a variety of contraband goods.
“The said operation also yielded a total of 66,241 various contraband goods, 7,512 liquors, P55,000 cash, 1142 communication devices, including computers, 1,314 deadly weapons, 1,019 cigarettes or tobacco, 104 gambling materials, and 150 uncategorized contraband,” he said.
Likewise, Barbers said the highly publicized investigation of Percy Lapid’s murder case has uncovered that, through the use of a cellular phone, an inmate in NBP was able to hire gunmen from outside the prison in order to kill the victim.
Under HB 6126, the introduction or possession of dangerous drugs and deadly weapons in a prison facility may result in up to 40 years of imprisonment and a fine of P5 million. Other contraband offenses are punishable by imprisonment ranging from six years and one day to 12 years, along with a fine of P1 million.
To combat corruption within correctional institutions, the bill imposes severe penalties on jail authorities found facilitating or assisting in the introduction or conveyance of prohibited items. This includes disqualification from holding public office and the forfeiture of all retirement benefits.
Barbers said the proliferation of contraband in prison has remained a perennial problem, and its never-ending presence inside the country’s correctional facilities has now transformed our prison institutions into breeding grounds for continuing criminality.
“The situation that we have right now in our correctional institution runs counter to the very foundations of our criminal justice system, which mandates punishment, reformation, and/or rehabilitation of offenders for their crimes,” he said.
He said that it is an “open secret” in some of the country’s detention facilities that affluent detainees, particularly detained or convicted drug lords, can buy themselves a number of privileges, such as having cellular phones, that are not allowed under the law.