Boying: Jail malnutrition ‘endemic’

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla has vowed to ensure that each person deprived of liberty in Philippine jails shall get to benefit from his or her P70 daily food allowance — not a peso less.

Otherwise, widespread malnutrition among PDLs will continue in penal facilities managed by the Bureau of Corrections and overseen by the Department of Justice, Remulla said.

The DoJ chief on Monday told reporters he will ensure that catering firms jockeying for contracts to feed PDLs would not connive with unscrupulous BuCor officials to take cuts from the PDLs’ 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 NBP.

He added that he’ll address nutrition issues affecting PDLs because they have to be fed properly as part of efforts to reform them and ensure their well-being.

Food riots had erupted before at the NBP, according to an interview of prison officials by Daily Tribune during the Duterte administration 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 New Bilibid Prison, 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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