US nationals warned about poor conditions in Philippine prisonsBy Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Americans in the Philippines have been advised to keep their noses clean because the US government will not be able to help them if they are sentenced to prison.
“Be prepared to face the realities of what are by American standards inadequate facilities, poor food and deficient sanitation in prisons,” warned the US Embassy in Manila.
American nationals who happen to be “in detention after arrest or are already serving a prison term upon conviction” in the country “should provide the embassy with the names of family or friends for financial assistance to enable you to buy dietary supplements and basic necessities like soap and toothpaste,” the embassy said in an “Emergency Services” advisory posted on its website.
According to the mission, “the consul can help you arrange for remittances to be sent so as to ensure that the money reaches you intact.”
The embassy also warned that “because of the incidence of violations of the Dangerous Drugs Act of the Philippines, it is necessary that Americans facing drug charges understand that stiff penalties are meted out to offenders.”
“It is not correct to assume—as many do—that the worst punishment an American can receive for such a violation is deportation. Offenders are generally arrested by operatives of the Philippine National Police (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) and until granted bail–which is not allowed in all cases–they remain in the custody and generally are confined in the rehabilitation center at Camp Bicutan in Taguig (City). In some drug cases where the amount found is more than 40 grams bail may not be available,” it said.
The embassy noted that “under the amended Dangerous Drugs Act, the penalty for the use or possession of 750 grams or more of marijuana is reclusion perpetua (20-40 years) to death. The possession or use of prohibited drugs in the amount of 40 grams or more, such as opium, heroin, cocaine or hallucinogens, carries a penalty of reclusion perpetua to death plus immediate deportation after completion of the sentence.”
“As of now, there is a moratorium of undefined length on executions,” the embassy noted.
It reminded US nationals that while in the Philippines, they are “subject to Philippine laws and regulations which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not provide the same protections available in the US.”
“Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the US for similar offenses. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, fined, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs in the Philippines are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines,” it said.
The mission also said the US government “cannot arrange for an American citizen to be released from jail or prison.”
“US citizenship does not entitle anyone to special privileges in the Philippine legal system. The US embassy does not have the authority to intervene in the Philippine justice system and cannot act as a legal representative or provide legal advice to US citizens,” it said.
But the embassy made the assurance that the US Department of State is “committed to ensuring fair and humane treatment for American citizens imprisoned overseas.”
“We assist incarcerated citizens and their families within the limits of our authority in accordance with international, US and Philippine laws. We monitor conditions in foreign prisons and protest allegations of abuse against American prisoners. We work with prison officials to seek treatment consistent with internationally recognized standards of human rights and due process.”
“An embassy duty officer is always available for emergency assistance. The embassy’s American Citizen Services Section is available to assist in all matters relating to the arrest of an American citizen,” it said.