Local chief executives of eight towns in Catanduanes have promised to include in their annual budgets their counterpart financial support for the Virac District Jail.
In the April 19, 2023 meeting of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) Catanduanes Chapter at Rakdell Inn, the mayors of Virac, Bato, San Miguel, Baras, Gigmoto, Viga, Panganiban and Bagamanoc pledged to allocated budgetary support for the jail facility which takes in Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) from the said towns.
Viga Mayor Emeterio Tarin outdid his colleagues, assuring Jail Warden SJO4 Jorge Gregorio of P100,000.00 as the town’s annual contribution for the jail facility’s maintenance, operation and other expenses.
In a statement to the Tribune, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) official said their request for support is based on a provision of Republic Act 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991, allowing local government units (LGU) to extend their counterpart annual support for the maintenance and operation of BJMP jails.
During the meeting, LMP President and Baras Mayor Jose Paolo Teves III advised the warden to come up with a draft budget proposal for consideration by the body during budget hearing this August, so that each of the eight LGUs can include it in their respective budgets for the 2024 fiscal year.
Warden Gregorio expressed his office’s gratitude for the welcome development and assured the chief executives that he will submit the draft budget proposal for the jail’s requirements for next year.
The Virac District Jail is one of the only two jails managed by BJMP Catanduanes, with the other being San Andres District Jail which caters to PDLs from San Andres, Caramoran and Pandan.
Following the signing of a deed of usufruct rights by the Virac LGU in favor of BJMP Virac over the 2,000 square meter portion of the municipal property at Calatagan Tibang, the P18-million modern, three-storey penology building was constructed.
After the completion of the building, the previous deed was converted into a deed of donation last March 21, 2023, as approved by the Sangguniang Bayan through a resolution, with the deed signed by Mayor Samuel Laynes and the BJMP-R5 Regional Director, Jail Chief Superintendent Joel Superficial.
Only the municipality of San Andres has a regular annual funding allocation of P130,000.00 as its support for the operation of the BJMP district jail, having started the same prior to 2012.
The LGU usually procures office supplies, monobloc chairs and other items upon request of the jail management.
The two other towns, Caramoran and Pandan, have yet to allocate similar funding or provide in-kind support.
On the other hand, not one of the eight towns whose PDLs are housed at the Virac District Jail has provided assistance to BJMP Virac, although the capital town of Virac provided the facility’s lot pursuant to the Local Government Code of 1991.
SJO4 Gregorio disclosed that their regular budget from the BJMP regional office only covers the facility’s expenses for the subsistence of the PDLs, water and power, and some office supplies.
He said that their average electricity bill is P21,000 while they pay about P14,000 a month for water consumption.
Out of the more than 140 bed capacity, only 46 are presently detained at the facility, he added, with the PDLs not complaining of the heat but of the chill during early mornings.
Among the items which they would like to ask the eight LGUs to provide as support are solar lamps along the perimeter fence to save on electricity; monobloc chairs for the still bare office where both officials and visitors sit on wooden benches; bond paper, computer printers and ink cartridges; and a CCTV system that would ensure security.
The Virac jail also needs a new generator and a monthly allocation for fuel, as the latter is often shouldered by the warden.
Aside from providing sites for municipal jails, LGUs are mandated under the General Welfare clause of Republic Act 7160 to ensure and support the maintenance of peace and order and preserve the comfort and convenience of their inhabitants.
In doing so, LGUs provide or donate lots, facilities and other financial/material assistance for uniformed bureaus under the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
The DILG also requires the local governments to maintain an inventory and accounting of fund support, whether in kind, cash or lot donation given to the BJMP, Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Fire Protection, and equipment on loan basis.