JUSTICE Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla and Interior Secretary Benjamin C. Abalos, Jr. on Thursday said their agencies are working together to address congestion in the country’s jails.

At a joint press conference streamed live on Facebook, Mr. Remulla said he had asked President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to appoint an assistant secretary for digital infrastructure to handle the digitalization of jail records.

“It is the only way to make things visible online to have more prisoners processed,” he said. “Decongestion is a matter of looking at each prisoner as a person, not a number.”

The agencies plan to coordinate with the Department of Information and Communications Technology to streamline the digitalization of jail records, Mr. Abalos told the briefing.

He added that he plans to ask heads of local governments to donate plots of land to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) so it can build more jail facilities. Philippine jails are overcrowded by almost five times.

BJMP, under the Interior department’s supervision, detains inmates with jail sentences of up to three years. The  Bureau of Corrections under the Department of Justice (DoJ) handles inmates with sentences exceeding three years.

Mr. Remulla said there are 17,000 inmates in the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa City, which was designed to house 6,000 inmates.

BJMP Director Allan S. Iral told the same briefing court hearings of inmates should be fast-tracked to help decongest the country’s jails.

Meanwhile, Mr. Abalos said he plans to reassess the qualifications of police officers conducting anti-drug operations.

He added  that the Interior department would implement more training programs and seminars on criminal law to determine qualified law enforcement personnel.

Only 21% or 62,000 of 291,000 drug cases filed have led to convictions, he said, citing police data from 2016 to 2022. — John Victor D. Ordoñez