Sen. Vicente Sotto III yesterday suggested constructing an Alcatraz-like detention facility for hardened criminals and high-level drug traffickers on one of Palawan’s 1,028 islands.
Sotto, former chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board, broached the idea after the camp of incoming president Rodrigo Duterte considered the possibility of building a structure similar to the famous top-security federal prison in the US among the means to curb the rampant drug operations in the country.
“In fact, I already talked with Palawan Gov. Pepito Alvarez for the site. Palawan has 1,028 islands. He is giving me a list of possible rocky islands with no beaches and plenty of sharks,” Sotto said.
There is already a penal colony in Palawan, and the other prison facility – if isolated – will not likely hurt the province’s tourism, observers noted.
Sotto, who wants a good working relationship between Duterte and the Senate, urged the incoming administration to look into his proposed bill 3226, which establishes a detention program and facility for high-level drug offenders within the national penitentiary system under the Bureau of Corrections, and see if this could be included among the priority measures in the upcoming 17th Congress.
Isolating high-level drug convicts, he added, could be an alternative to the calls for the re-imposition of death penalty.
The lawmaker added that he is not taking offense at Duterte’s reported plans for hardened criminals and convicted notorious drug traffickers “as long as they give credit where credit is due.”
Under his proposed “Anti-Drug Penal Institution Act,” a facility for high-level drug offenders would be built and an Anti-Drug Board, composed of the secretary of justice as chairman and the heads of the interior and local government, social welfare and development, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Dangerous Drugs Board and Commission on Human Rights as members.
Sotto explained that the present treatment system and detention security measures of the Bureau of Corrections have not been effective in dealing with hard-core criminals, citing reports of the high-level inmates’ continuing drug operations even behind bars.
“These incidents prove that convicted drug lords could continue their illegal drug business inside the premises of the national penitentiary, probably with the aid of regular inmates with whom they are co-mingled,” the senator added.
Sotto said his proposal also aims to decongest existing penal institutions and accommodate the increasing number of inmates committed to the existing seven prison and penal farms in the country.
Aside from this, isolating high-level drug offenders would also cut any chance of interaction with ordinary offenders.