DILG to conduct random drug tests in jails

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 10) — The Department of the Interior and Local Government said on Tuesday it will conduct random drug tests in jail facilities managed by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

"I will personally go to our jails and I will be conducting surprise drug testing of BJMP personnel and PDLs [persons deprived of liberty] in those jails," DILG Sec. Benjamin Abalos said.

"So I'm warning each and every BJMP warden and personnel, kapag may nag-positive, then it means na may nakapasok na droga sa mga jail facilities natin," he added.

[Translation: So I'm warning each and every BJMP warden and personnel, if someone tests positive, then it means illegal drugs were brought inside our jail facilities.]

Abalos issued the warning during his visit to the BJMP National Headquarters, amid the issue of big-time drug lords operating in jails.

The DILG official noted that the real problem is the line of communication that allows these prisoners to contact their sources outside the facility.

He said the connection should be cut through signal jammers to stop the illegal drug trade within jails.

Aside from drug testing, Abalos also wants medical screening and physical examinations for PDLs prior to their admission. This is to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases within prison facilities, especially now that the country has confirmed its first case of monkeypox, he explained.

DILG said that as of June 30, BJMP houses a total of 131,193 PDLs in 477 jails across the country. This translates to a 387% congestion rate with 337 jails congested, it added.

Abalos said authorities should think of out-of-the-box solutions to address the congestion problem.

One way is by entering a deal with local government units for a usufruct, which is a legal right accorded to a person or party for the temporary right to use and earn income or profit from the owner's property.

Despite the decline in prison congestion, Abalos said in a briefing last month that more facilities should still be built. This can be made possible through lot donations or long-term leases from LGUs, he noted.