DoJ backs measures to decongest prisons

JUSTICE Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra yesterday said he supports measures that seek to decongest jail facilities, including a Senate proposal to set up a separate prisons for convicts of heinous crimes.

But the Senate bill might have a difficult chance becoming a law given the state’s limited budget, he said in a mobile-phone message.

“It is a question of legislative priority given the competing claims of the more productive sectors like public works and education,” he said.

Three Senate committees approved a bill that seeks to set up separate jails for heinous crime convicts. Three maximum security penal institutions will be located in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

The modernized jails will feature surveillance cameras and the latest security system that will monitor prisoners 24 hours a day.

Mr. Guevarra said the privatization of portions of the national jail in Muntinlupa City might be a good source of funding for the new jails.

“But this is subject to a comprehensive legal audit and feasibility study, not to mention the political will to do it,” he said.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte earlier fired his prison chief Nicanor E. Faeldon for allowing the illegal release of about 2,000 felons convicted of heinous crimes for good conduct. The convicts were ineligible to be release for good conduct under the law.

The DoJ and Department of the Interior and Local Government later revised the rules implementing the law on early release by disqualifying recidivists, escapees, habitual delinquents and convicts of heinous crimes.

Mr. Duterte had given the convicts until Sept. 19 to surrender or they would be hunted down “dead or alive.”

DoJ Undersecretary Markk L. Perete on Monday said 2,221 convicts have surrendered. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Health dep’t lacks people for vaccines


THE Department of Health (DoH) yesterday said it lacks manpower to enforce a nationwide immunization program, after reports that a lower vaccine coverage of vaccines had led to outbreaks of certain diseases including polio.

During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Health medical specialist Anthony Calibo said the agency has lacked technical assistance in its immunization programs for the past few years.

“DoH should look beyond just procuring vaccines, it should also invest in the capacity of the local government units to improve in reaching every child,” he said.

Mr. Calibo said that the DoH had proposed to create an immunization unit to address the resurgence of diseases but this was disapproved. — Gillian M. Cortez

Manila port gets new X-ray machines

The Bureau of Customs has installed two out of the six new X-ray machines in the port of Manila to tighten security against smuggling, it said in a statement yesterday.

“The X-ray scanners are expected to further enhance the capability of BoC in detecting smuggled and anti-social goods,” the bureau said.

These include misdeclared items, undervalued and undeclared goods as well as illegal drugs in various ports nationwide, it added.