PHILIPPINE President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has ordered the Department of Justice (DoJ) to release more prisoners as part of efforts to decongest the country’s jails, according to the presidential palace.

Mr. Marcos also backed a DoJ plan to transfer hardened criminals to an Alcatraz-type prison to stop them from committing more crimes while in jail.

The president said most inmates are languishing in jail because they could not afford good lawyers. “They don’t have brilliant lawyers,” he told a Cabinet meeting in Filipino, according to the palace statement. “That’s why we are in favor now to release many of them.”

“They just needed representation to set them free. So let’s continue with that,” he added.

At the meeting, Mr. Marcos cited rampant corruption inside the Bureau of Corrections, underscoring the need for inmates to be transferred to special facilities.

“The president also backed the DoJ’s plan to transfer hardened criminals to an Alcatraz-type prison, isolating them from the general population and putting a stop to their criminal activities as they were still able to direct operations while behind bars,” the palace said.

The DoJ released almost 3,000 prisoners from July to December 2022 “as an immediate step” to decongest the country’s prisons and jails.

“The DoJ also fast-tracked the processing of the release of qualified prisoners by digitalizing the systems of the Probation and Parole Administration,” the palace said, citing the agency’s accomplishment report for last year.

The Justice department is eyeing to further decongest prisons by transferring the maximum security compound in Muntinlupa City to Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) said. The DoJ is also planning to establish separate heinous crime facilities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. 

Meanwhile, the palace said the Department of Education (DepEd) would seek to boost support for teachers and make learning more inclusive starting this year.

In a separate statement, DepEd said it would present a basic education report on Jan. 30 that will outline the state of basic education in the country. The report will also include updates on the K-12 curriculum.

Meanwhile, Mr. Marcos has appointed Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil as PCO secretary. The office posted photos of Ms. Garafil taking her oath before the president on Instagram.

In October, Ms. Garafil was named officer-in-charge of the now defunct Office of the Press Secretary, which has since been renamed the PCO. It is in charge of coordinating the Executive branch’s messaging system.

Ms. Garafil, a former journalist, had also served as head of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board. — K.A.T. Atienza