August 4, 2022
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines may soon have an island prison similar to the famed US penitentiary on Alcatraz Island after the bill on the creation of separate facilities for heinous crimes lapsed into law.
The reconciled Senate Bill No. 1055 and House Bill No. 10355 became law on July 30 as President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. neither enacted nor vetoed it 30 days after lawmakers submitted the measure to Malacañang.
Under the new law, the government is mandated to establish and maintain “a secure, clean and adequately equipped and sanitary” national penitentiary for “high-level offenders” — convicts guilty of heinous crimes or those sentenced to life imprisonment.
The new law defines heinous crimes as “grievous, odious and hateful offenses and which by reason of their inherent or manifest wickedness, viciousness, atrocity, and perversity or repugnant and outrageous to the common standards and norms of decency and morality in a just, civilized and orderly society.”
These include treason, piracy and mutiny on the high seas in Philippine waters, qualified bribery, parricide, murder, infanticide, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons, destructive arson, and rape.
One each for LuzVisMin
The new law requires the government to build at least one heinous crime prison each in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
It said that heinous crime offenders currently serving time in prisons run by the Bureau of Corrections would be transferred to these facilities.
“The Heinous Crime Facility shall be located in a secured and isolated place ensuring that there is no unwarranted contact or communication with those outside of the penal facilities,” the law said.
The facility is to be built at “a suitable location” to be determined by the justice secretary, preferably “within a military establishment or on an island.”
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, one of the principal authors of the law, earlier said that the new prisons could be built on isolated and uninhabited islands.
“Far from their victims and society at large, Alcatraz-like prisons will keep us safe. They suffer the punishment and we are kept safe far away from their clutches,” Zubiri said in 2019.
Alcatraz, which is also known as The Rock, was the island penitentiary on San Francisco Bay that operated from the 1930s until it was closed in 1963 and later turned into a tourist attraction. One of its well-known inmates was the crime king Al Capone.
Over 5,000 islands available
Zubiri did not propose a specific site for an Alcatraz-like island prison.
More than 7,600 islands comprise the Philippines archipelago by official count as of 2017. Only 2,000 of them are inhabited.
The law said that the funds required to implement it in its first year will be taken from the budget of the Department of Justice for the current fiscal year and the needed amounts for the succeeding years will be included in the annual national budget.
The Separate Facility for Heinous Crimes Act was among the 41 bills from the previous Congress that had lapsed into law since Marcos took office.
Marcos has so far vetoed five bills, which included the bill creating the Bulacan Airport City Special Ecozone and the bill granting tax exemptions to the honorariums, allowances, and other benefits given to election workers.
With only five bills vetoed against 41 that became law, the president could not be said to have been on a “veto spree,” according to Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles.