Legal aid needed for overstaying inmates ‘to give them hope’

By: Melissa Q. Cabahug, Victor Anthony V. Silva April 14,2015 - 12:41 PM

More paralegal officers, not psychologists, are needed by inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) to resolve their pending cases and keep their hope alive  for an early release.

“Para nako, kining mga inmates nato, bisa’g imo ni silang tan-awn, mura sila’g malipayon, magsige sila’g katawa-katawa. Pero kani sila tanan, depressed sila,(For me, these inmates, at first glance, they may be smiling and laughing. But all of them, they are depressed),” said provincial jail consultant Marco Toral.

Toral said several  inmates in the facility suffer depression because they don’t know whether their cases are moving forward at all.

“When there’s a para-legal officer, at least the inmates are informed about their promulgation or when their next hearing is. They’re given hope that someone cares enough to update them on their cases and that somehow, things are moving forward,” he said.

Last Saturday, 47-year old Australian Hilton Reece Munro hanged himself inside a cell he occupied by himself in the CPDRC.

READ: Former Aussie teacher accused of child trafficking found dead inside Cebu jail

Toral said the Australian, who was detained there since shortly after his arrest in July 2013, may have lost hope of being released from jail.

Munro faced charges of human trafficking and child abuse for allegedly paying boys for sex. He was arrested by police agents of the Regional Anti-Trafficking Task Force in the Stakili beach resort in Compostela town along with a local taxi driver, whom he hired to take him around during his holiday.


Toral said the Australian embassy contacted Munro’s family who requested that his  remains be cremated and sent back to Australia as soon as possible.

His co-accused, driver Gilbert Andrada, attended only one to two hearings of their case.

“This is the reason we really needed paralegal officers here in CPDRC,” Toral said.

Based on CPDRC records, eight percent of the total population are overstaying in jail.

Toral said there were at least two cases of suicide last year. One inmate drank acid in 2013 but  was saved and treated in time.

READ: Incest rape suspect commits suicide

He died four days ago due to a complication in the liver which Toral attributed to the prior suicide attempt.

He said the administration’s plan to convert a chapel to a new holding facility will ease overcrowding in the prison.

“I would propose to create a separate facility for rehabilitation. There are first timers who can be placed there once they arrive. The shortest time they stay in jail is only six months,” he said.
Warm bodies

The CPDRC can house 1,600 inmates but the prison population has reached more than 2,300.

Lawyer Gonzalo Malig-on, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu Province chapter, said two “legal aid lawyers” are paid by the association to assist people who need  legal advice.
These lawyers  also assist detainees as well as represent in court those who could not afford to retain lawyers.

“But we can only do so much. The fate of the inmates as well as the desire for speedy disposition of cases is in the hands of the trial courts,” he said in a phone interview yesterday.

Malig-on said he intends to request the assistance of law students to help the IBP monitor the cases of prisoners in the different detention facilities in the province.

“We need warm bodies to follow up the cases of inmates. There are inmates who are already overstaying in jail. Their cases are not moving. So we have to assist the courts,” he said./With Correspondent Apple Mae Ta-as


READ: After death of Aussie accused of child sex crime, taxi driver has ‘no lawyer’

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TAGS: Aussie, Australian, CPDRC, inmate, suicide

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