Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Bilibid inmates do not enjoy rights or privileges--only the right to live humanely

Big-time convicts who were recently "evicted" from the Bilibid and put into one of the holding areas at the National Bureau of Investigation, are demanding that they be given back their "rights" to live luxuriously inside the penal facility. Of course, these people were represented by counsel, who then called media to amplify their stand.

I don't know about you, but big-time convicts or those already with convictions have lost their "rights" as prisoners of the state. When you violate the laws of the country, you trade in your rights especially your right to be able to move freely. The State has already claimed you as its own. You are now subject of the State. The State claims possession of your bodily self.

And when you now become the subject of a state, you do not have the right to do what a normal citizen actually does. Your right to freedom is subject to the State. Your right to even run and be elected in office is not just suspended but is revoked. When convicted, you lose the right to yourself because the State now has the right to impose upon your person certain correctional and often, disciplinary measures meant towards reformation. Or to hard-core criminals, and when a state imposed the death penalty, the State exercises even an option of revoking your right to live.

What this means is that a convict loses his civil rights the minute he enters the state justice system. It is part of the trade-off. You violate the law, you suffer the consequences. The consequence is a loss of rights and privileges as a citizen.

So, now, what rights are these convicts talking about, but only the right to be treated humanely while in prison. The minimum standard as far as the law is concerned, is for the State to provide him with a place to be kept and fed and occasionally, be given the time of day to enjoy sunlight. This opportunity of enjoying the sunlight is a privilege not a right. The only right is, again, to be treated humanely and not be subject to cruel and inhumane punishment.

It is not the obligation of government to install air-conditioning system in every penal facility. It is, however, necessary that every prisoner has access to fresh air.

It is not the obligation of government to provide decent housing for inmates. It is enough or sufficient for government to provide inmates with enough space for them to move about, clean space and for them to be able to live humanely.

When Government allows its penal facilities to sell "decent" space to inmates who can afford such, it is a sacrilegious thing, something abominable and a mockery of the very justice system which is supposed to be a system that equalises statuses.