Senators: Justice should be equal, humane

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

SENATOR Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday criticized the alleged special treatment being accorded to Senators Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. and Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada as he criticized the alleged extraordinary comfort being given to his colleagues in their detention cells.

Cayetano said government officials including those in the Sandiganbayan should not discriminate against those who have been subjected to arrest, whether they are senators or ordinary citizens, rich or poor.

"Dapat pantay pantay lamang. Kung gusto natin bigyan ng maayos na treatment ang mga senador o sinuman diyan na mayayaman, dapat ganuon din ang ating mga mahihirap na kababayan na nakukulong at naghihinagpis sa loob ng selda," Cayetano said.


The senator from Pateros said that justice must not discriminate as he further said that regardless of one's status in life, rendering of justice and the treatment to all those who are suffering in jail must be equal.

Cayetano said the issue of the detention facility being rotten with poor ventilation should not be made part of "punishment" for those being detained.

"We have to put our foot down as a nation and say that our criminal justice system should see the rich and the poor equally," he said.

"It is the privilege of Senators Jinggoy and Revilla to show their conditions in their detention cells but we have to refocus it and re-balance it. That is why I am reiterating my proposal to the Supreme Court to order the Sandiganbayan to allow the hearings to be opened to media. I think transparency is the key," he said.

"That is why, I am saying prayers for them and hope that they will be healthy, especially Senator Juan Ponce Enrile who is 90 years old, and that they be treated humanely but we still have to be on track for full prosecution of all forms of corruption and crimes," he added.

Earlier, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago who filed Senate Resolution 525, calling an investigation on the anomalous situation in New Bilibid prison, saying it is high time that we put a stop to VIP prisoners who are enjoying extravagant accommodations in jails.

"How can there be justice in our correctional system when we have a double standard between poor and rich inmates?" the senator asked.

Santiago cited news reports of rich high-risk prisoners in the New Bilibid Prison staying in air-conditioned rooms, enjoying contraband supplies such as illegal drugs and alcohol, and even taking in sex workers.

Some VIP inmates reportedly drive around the penitentiary grounds in golf carts, electric motorcycles, and tricycles.

It was also reported that the maximum security compound has its own dress shops, wet and dry markets, fruit stands, as well as facilities such a jazz bar, plaza, and tennis court.

"These prisoners are supposed to be experiencing punishment for their crimes, not taking a vacation. They are making a mockery out of the justice system by turning our jails into their own private resorts," Santiago said.

"The same thing is happening in other prison complexes in the country. If this can happen in a maximum security compound, who knows what else happens in other jails?" she said.

Santiago also filed Senate Bill 1759, or the "No Frills Prison Bill", to eliminate luxurious prison conditions by mandating average standard living conditions and opportunities for every prisoner.

Santiago's proposed law prohibits access by all prisoners to certain luxuries, such as TV-viewing inside cells, cellphones, and computers. It also imposes additional restrictions for prisoners serving a sentence for violent crimes.

"Under the equal protection clause of the Constitution, all persons similarly situated should receive similar treatment. It does not matter whether you're a Johnny caught picking pockets or a Johnny charged with plunder. All detainees and prisoners, whether common criminals or senators, should have the same accommodations," she said.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV who himself has been detained seven years ago for leading the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny, said it is part of the process that those who are behind bars must bear what is inside the prison.

Trillanes in a television interview admitted that he had the same experience where he dealt with the same rat and the same heat.

A former navy military officer turned senator, Trillanes said his detention under the Arroyo administration was hard during that time.

However, he opted not to complain as he stood his ground for what he think is right and proper.

"There is this saying: if you do the crime, you do the time. I believe when we rose against the past administration, no matter how morally justified that cause was, legally it still was crime that we did and we have to pay then," he added.

Trillanes said they have no other choice then but to deal with their ground enemies like those detainees who are Abu Sayyaf members including the Moro rebels and hard criminals like kidnap for ransom and alleged members of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Trillanes said there is no room for complaining as he cited his own personal experience of hardship.

"Sometime we have to bear with the heat when there are periods that electric fans were taken from us during summer. Walang shower and the toilet did not have a flush. Nakapaligid sa iyo ay puro rehas lamang na may padlock," he said.

He also shared a possible routine strategy that can beat up their depression. These include reading books, lots of exercise and by keeping oneself busy all the time.

Trillanes said experience will help them in becoming better persons. This chance will give them all the time to contemplate, meditate and reflect about life in general, he added.

Revilla earlier complained of rats and roaches as well as extreme heat and poor ventilation in his detention cell in his first night as a detainee. The senator is detained at the newly renovated Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Estrada, meanwhile, had no complaints on his first night in jail since it is not his first time to be detained for a plunder case. Estrada and his father, former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, were detained in 2001 while undergoing trial for a plunder case.

Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, PNP Public Information Office (PIO) chief, said Estrada woke up late on Tuesday morning.

"Mas mabilis siyang (Estrada) naka-adopt. Wala namang nabatid na reklamo," he said.

Sindac said Revilla and Estrada had hotdog and egg for breakfast and chicken tinola for lunch. The lawmakers were unable to finish their prison food since their individual families sent them provisions.

On the other hand, both Trillanes and Cayetano do not favor detaining Enrile in a regular cell like that of Revilla and Estrada.

Trillanes said senior citizens have special needs that cannot be addressed in a common detention facility.

He proposed a house arrest or hospital arrest for Enrile where the senator can be treated well because of his advance age.

Trillanes also called on the government to improve and upgrade the detention cells of all prisoners instead of using this issue against Revilla and Estrada.

Trillanes insisted the need for the government to treat prisoners properly and humanely instead of treating them like dogs. (Camille P. Balagtas/Third Anne Peralta/Sunnex)

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