Remulla vows to address ‘endemic’ malnutrition in Phl jails

Photo by Jam STA ROSA / AFP

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said that widespread malnutrition among persons deprived of liberty will continue in Philippine jails if they do not get their exact amount of daily food allowance.

The Department of Justice chief on Monday told reporters he will ensure that catering firms jockeying for contracts to feed PDLs would not connive with unscrupulous Bureau of Corrections officials to take cuts from the PDLs’ P70 daily food budget.

“When even P1 is deducted from the food budget, an inmate’s nutritional needs are greatly affected. Malnutrition is really endemic here,” Remulla said during the release of 340 PDLs at the New Bilibid Prison.

He added nutrition issues affecting PDLs have to be addressed as part of efforts to reform them and ensure their well-being.

Prison officials interviewed by Daily Tribune during the Duterte administration said that food riots had erupted before at the NBP when the food budget was just at P50 per day per PDL.

Less than half

The present P70 daily food budget for each PDL in BuCor facilities like the NBP, Women’s Correctional, and Iwahig Penal Colony equates roughly to $1.30.

In comparison, a PDL serving a final conviction in a California jail gets a daily food budget of $3.18, according to a 2021 report by that state’s legislative body.

The P70, however, is higher than the P55.80-a-day budget for three square meals that the Philippine Statistics Authority said was needed in 2021 for a Filipino to meet “minimum nutritional needs.”

The PSA’s 2021 National Poverty Statistics Report raised a howl among senators at the time when it said that a family of five needed only P279 per day to stay nourished: P93 per meal for five persons; or P55.80 for three meals per person.

Remulla and BuCor chief Gregorio Catapang also exposed on Monday an anomaly involving corrupt jail officers who allegedly take cuts of up to 20 percent from the money sent to PDLs by their loved ones through e-cash transfers.

Remulla said the money sent to PDLs was part of their “coping mechanism” that allowed them to buy things like extra food inside the detention facilities.

He said the problem in the supply of food for PDLs led to the discovery of the scheme not only in BuCor-managed jails but also in those overseen by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology for those with pending criminal cases.

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