One prisoner at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) dies each day amid an insufficiency of doctors and available medical facilities, the national penitentiary's hospital chief said Wednesday.
Henry Fabro, chief of the NBP Hospital, said the death rate among Bilibid prisoners is in a "critical" condition, breaching what he said were universally accepted standards.
"I hate to say it's usual pero nando'n pa rin sa level na critical po tayo," Fabro told reporters on the sidelines of the 3rd Asia-Pacific Conference on Prison Health in Makati City.
Only 13 doctors attend to the more than 47,000 persons deprived of liberty (PDL) imprisoned at the Bureau of Corrections' (BuCor) facilities nationwide, the physician said.
Only four or five of them, along with at most 40 nurses, are assigned at the "poorly equipped" hospital in Bilibid, where heart attacks are the top cause of death, he said. Strokes and chronic kidney disease are also causes.
On the other hand, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), which controls 478 detention facilities for more than 136,000 pre-trial inmates, has 12 doctors and two psychiatrists, said Paul Borlongan, a medical officer at its national headquarters.
Three hundred to 800 PDLs inside BJMP jails die each year mostly due to non-communicable diseases, he said. Unlike Bilibid prisoners, BJMP inmates are taken to the public hospital closest to their jail.
Borlongan said jail congestion contributes to the decline in inmates' health.
The BJMP has 1,200 nurses, he said. "But we make sure that each jail should have at least one functioning nurse."
Senator Leila de Lima has filed a resolution seeking a Senate investigation into the alleged deaths of 29 Bilibid inmates within a 17-day period due to "subhuman" conditions in the penitentiary.
BuCor Director General Gerald Bantag could not immediately confirm the figures but welcomed the senator's resolution.
"Maganda 'yang finile ng ating senador para malaman ang katotohanan, diba?" he told reporters.
The number of the country's prisoners increased even more in September, when persons who were released on shortened sentences because of good conduct credits surrendered upon orders by President Rodrigo Duterte.
More than 2,000 people have returned to prisons, but the ones who were released on non-GCTA grounds and therefore should not have surrendered are being processed for release.
At the Bilibid, surrenderers are kept at the medium and minimum security compounds, Bantag said.
Asked if any returnees have died, he said: "Meron talaga 'yan." Figures were not immediately available. — MDM, GMA News