Former political prisoners decry inhuman and meager budget for food, medicines of those in jail

August 24, 2023 | SELDA

The Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), an organization of former political prisoners, decried the skewed and disproportionate fiscal priorities of the Marcos Jr. administration in its proposals for the national budget for 2024, as it pointed out that the meager budget allocation for prisons remains at subhuman levels.

“Nelson Mandela, a former political prisoner in South Africa, said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. Aside from the staggering 383% over-congestion rates in Philippine prisons, the subhuman conditions include the measly PhP70 ($1.24) for food and PhP15 ($0.27) for medicines each prisoner daily for the past five years, which is again being proposed by the Department of Budget and Management for 2024. This does not only indicate the government’s dire lack of compassion for those imprisoned, but a clear violation of international human rights norms such as the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the

Treatment of Prisoners or the Mandela Rules,” said SELDA spokesperson Bonifacio Ilagan.

SELDA said that the PhP70 per day per prisoner food budget, in particular, already falls short of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute’s (FNRI) standard on minimum daily cost per person of a nutritionally adequate diet. The Justice Department had proposed to DBM PhP100 for food and PhP30 for medicine as daily subsistence allowance for every prisoner.

Political prisoners, Ilagan pointed out, are among those who experience the said inhuman treatment of being deprived of adequate nutritious food and medical services inside jails. At least 95 out of the 778 political prisoners have various ailments and life-threatening diseases, and 77 are elderly. Majority of the prison population in the Philippines are from poor sectors in society.

“These allocations are a far cry from the compensation of top government executives, including those in government owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) such as the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), who enjoyed big hikes on their salaries,” Ilagan said.

According to the Commission on Audit’s annual audit report for 2022, total compensation for top executives of PhilHealth show a 175.72% increase from 2021’s PhP26.202 million to PhP72.244 million in 2022.

“We call on Congress to increase the food and medicine budget for prisoners, in accordance to international standards. The state of our lopsided justice system in the country, favoring the moneyed and powerful over the poor and those who are unjustly imprisoned, has already

resulted to a high prison population. Adequate funding should be provided to ensure that they have access to decent living conditions and essential services,” Ilagan said.