Jail managers adhere to prevent torture and improve humane treatment of persons deprived of liberty in Western Mindanao
Jail managers in western Mindanao have affirmed their commitment to promote torture-free jails during the training of wardens on human rights held in Dapitan in Zamboanga del Norte from June 12-14, 2019. The three-day activity was organized by Balay Rehabilitation Center in partnership with the regional office of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) based in Pagadian City.
Among the topics discussed in the training are the following:
- The human rights obligations of jail personnel in line with their humane safekeeping and development mission
- The rights of persons deprived of liberty and the international standard for the treatment of prisoners or the Mandela Rules
- The Anti-Torture Act and the BJMP policy on the designation of Human Rights Affairs Officers and its guidelines on torture screening, documentation and reporting
The training was attended by wardens from 22 jails from all over Zamboanga Peninsula, including the Zamboanga City Jail which holds the biggest number of persons deprived of liberty in Region 9. The participants produced a torture screening, documentation, and reporting flowchart which, among others, show the procedures to be undertaken by human rights officers and health officers once they have detected a possible case of torture of incoming detainee or those already staying in their facilities.
According to penal administrators, they have already established human rights desks and designated human rights officers (HRAO) in jails under their jurisdiction. They said that these officers are in charge of monitoring and reporting incidents that may be considered as torture and ill treatment.
The Balay training managers said that part of the HRAO’s function is to promote human right education among the detainees and jail personnel and to take the lead in holding activities that would raise awareness on human rights and torture prevention. The trainers encouraged the wardens to support the education, training, and supervision of HRAOs to effectively perform their tasks. They noted that durable solutions to the multi-tasking practice among jail officers may have to be addressed as well in order for the HRAOs to concentrate on their function.
The participants acknowledged that jail overcrowding remains to be a formidable challenge to their humane safekeeping mission. BJMP Regional Legal Officer Atty. Mashur Sala said the bureau has been undertaking remedies to decongest the jails such as by building additional facilities to house the detainees, facilitating the legal processes towards their release for good conduct, accessing their right to bail and speedy trial, or by entering into a plea bargaining arrangement with the guidance of their legal counsel.
He added that they welcome authorized agencies, such as the Commission on Human Rights, to conduct monitoring visits in their facilities and to enter into a dialogue with them in order to further improve their protective and developmental programs for persons deprived of liberty.