THE Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to hold a drug summit next year in order to review the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 as part of the measures to further decongest prison and jail facilities in the country.
This was disclosed by DOJ Justice Undersecretary Jesse Andres during the last day of the two-day National Jail Decongestion Summit spearheaded by the Justice Sector Coordinating Council (JSCC) which is composed of the Supreme Court, Department of Justice and the Department of Interior and Local Government.
“The next big project will be the drug summit, where we will have a chance to review this law together with all the important stakeholders. And this will lead to amendments of the law so that less people will be incarcerated in relation to drug cases,” Andres said.
He stressed the need to amend the law in order to harmonize it with the current trends, particularly with the entry of new drugs.
“So we have to review whether our amounts or threshold amounts for you to be charged with a non bailable offense is still accurate given the practice. You know there are new drugs coming in,” he added.
Andres noted that over the past two years, 70,000 persons have been charged with bailable and non-bailable drug-related offenses but most of them are in jail.
“I think it is about time that we review the dangerous drugs law and how we can modify it to be more attuned to the times and one important objective in the review of this law is to lessen the number of people who are incarcerated based on a miniscule amount of drugs on their possession,” the DOJ official told mediamen.
The DOJ undersecretary urged local stakeholders to participate in this undertaking so their inputs and experiences can be considered in drafting new policies and recommendations.
He added that the summit would be limited to local stakeholders and discount the idea of inviting the International Criminal Court.
“We are calling on all important stakeholders on this drug issue. There’s the civil society organizations, these are the health organizations. The Department of Health should be heavily involved here and the DOJ on the law enforcement side and all other stakeholders,” Andres stressed..
For his part, Bureau of Corrections (BuCOr0 chief Gregorio Catapang Jr. has proposed the transfer of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) with a sentence three years and below from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology to BuCor.
Catapang’s made the proposal after learning during the summit that BJMP’s recidivism rate is high.
He said the lack of reformation might be the reason for the high recidivism rate, which the BuCor can provide.
“We will recommend that individuals sentenced to three years and below should be transferred to BuCor so that we can address their recidivism and the reformation will help them. So that they won’t be going back and forth. Jail and then back to society,” Catapang said in an interview during the summit.
Catapang said there are around 13,000 PDLs with a sentence of less that three years and below at the BJMP.
He assured that the transfer would not result to more congestion on the part of BuCor as more facilities are being built at present.
Based on data, 70 percent of detention facilities under the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) are overcrowded at an average congestion rate of 386 percent.
In some jails, the occupancy rate has gone as high as 2,748 percent of their standard facility.
The two-day summit ended yesterday which saw the heads of the three branches of the government – the judiciary, the executive and the legislative – and other stakeholders joining together to find solutions to the worsening jail congestion problem in the country.