The Bureau of Corrections (BUCOR) has initiated the transfer of 500 male and female inmates to confined facilities in the barangays of Sta. Lucia and Inagawan under the management of the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm (IPPF) in Puerto Princesa City.

The significant undertaking aims to alleviate the chronic overcrowding issues plaguing the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa and the Correctional Institution for Women (CIW) in Mandaluyong, according to BUCOR Director General Gregorio Catapang Jr.

The inmates arrived on Wednesday, June 28, at Puerto Princesa’s port via 2GO vessel M/V St. Francis Xavier, which typically shuttles passengers to Palawan.

Catapang said the first wave of transfers is composed of 450 male inmates from the medium and maximum security sections of NBP, along with 50 female inmates from CIW.

Female inmates from the Correctional Institution for Women alight from the 2GO vessel for their relocation to Brgy. Sta. Lucia.

Their relocation marks the inception of a grander scheme aiming to transfer a total of 2,500 to designated settlements within IPPF. Additionally, the long-term vision encompasses the establishment of a specialized correctional facility catering specifically to women.

Catapang expressed that this ambitious initiative aligns with President Bongbong Marcos Jr.’s Philippine Development Plan. The primary objective is to regionalize incarceration to expedite the persons deprived of liberty’s (PDL) rehabilitation process and facilitate the enhancement of prison facilities.

Addressing the press, Catapang shared, “This diverse group includes both Palawan natives and individuals from other regions who have opted for this relocation. When you witness the conditions they endure in Muntinlupa, you realize they would prefer to be here. Their current situation is akin to being crammed in a can of sardines there.”

Some of the 500 PDLs arrived Wednesday at Puerto Princesa Seaport to be transferred to Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm.

Catapang clarified that as a considerable number of these relocated inmates approach the completion of their sentences, they will undergo a reclassification process, transitioning from medium and maximum security to a minimum security level.

IPPF Superintendent Gary Garcia said that the inmates’ status on the vessel was that of regular passengers. However, they were carefully segregated and provided accommodations in the Super Value Class section.

In charge of overseeing their transfer to Sta. Lucia and Inagawan, he ensured meticulous handling of the process to guarantee the safety and security of both the inmates and the public.

Deviating from their usual diet as PDLs, the inmates were treated to a special meal upon their arrival in the sub-colonies, adding a glimmer of solace to their arduous relocation experience.

The male inmates were transported to the Inagawan Sub-Colony, while the female inmates were taken to a separate penal facility situated Sta. Lucia via 13 hired buses. Throughout the convoy, uniformed personnel, including members of the 3rd Marine Brigade and the Puerto Princesa City Anti-Crime Task Force, provided a security cordon.

Garcia affirmed that thorough health check-ups would be conducted on all relocated inmates to identify any illnesses acquired during their journey. Female inmates would also undergo specific procedures, including pregnancy tests, to ensure appropriate care for expectant mothers.

“Standard operating procedure namin na i-check yong mga female inmates kung sila ay buntis para maalagan,” he said.

Correctional facility for women
The IPPF converted the Sta. Lucia Sub-Colony as its correctional for the 50 female inmates who were transferred.

Catapang also expressed his intention to transfer all PDLs in CIW, mirroring his plan for NBP, by 2028.

“Pumirma iyan sila, hindi yan darating dito kung walang personal na consent—congested na rin yon, isasama ko na rin yon na isasara ang CIW-kawawa rin ang estado nila doon,” he said.

The PDLs who were incarcerated in Sta. Lucia Sub-Colony have been relocated to Montible Sub-Colony.

BuCor is currently implementing a regionalization program, which involves incarcerating PDLs in facilities located near or within their respective home provinces.

Catapang mentioned his desire to transform CIW into a Mandaluyong Global City, similar to his plan for NBP once all PDLs have been transferred out.

Barrio Libertad
After being transferred to IPPF, Catapang is committed to pursuing the implementation of Barrio Libertad, allowing PDLs under minimum security to reside with their families while serving the remaining years of their sentences.

This practice has been in existence since the 1970s, with even the children of PDLs attending schools established within the sub-colonies.

Catapang mentioned that the bureau needs to undertake certain tasks, such as leveling the area to make it suitable for PDL occupants and their families.

“Kailangan ko lang magpatag ng mga lugar, ittuloy koyon. Dati naman ganon— noon ay may isa lang tumakas tapos nag-decide na ikulong na naman sila. Ngayon, nagdagdag naman ako ng gwardiya, hopefully hindi na sila Tatakas. Kasama na nila pamilya, Catapang said.

IPPF has previously clarified that qualified PDLs under minimal security will be the potential occupants in Barrio Libertad. The bureau will conduct a series of deliberations, including the validation of the legitimacy of the PDLs’ spouses’ marriages.

Catapang assures that the addition of 300 correctional officers will be instrumental in guarding PDLs and ensuring that no one escapes during the implementation of Barrio Libertad.

On the other hand, the ongoing construction of a 10-hectare dormitory compound will also aid in accommodating additional PDLs in IPPF. The project, which began construction in 2021, has a budget of P300 million and will feature 50 cells. The bureau anticipates the completion of the project in July.