Health group pushes for prison reforms as 63 year old, ailing political prisoner dies at New Bilibid Prison

Press release

July 15, 2011

Mariano Umbrero, political prisoner incarcerated at New Bilibid Prison (NBP), passed away today as a result of his deteriorating medical condition and lack of medical care. It is a general knowledge that inmates in prisons/jails all over the country are living in deplorable conditions.

Given the extent to which lung cancer of Tatay Umbrero, as he was fondly called inside NBP, had progressed, in mid-March this year, he was in and out of NBP hospital.

“It was just inhuman. Tatay Umbrero’s life could have been prolonged if he was freed immediately from prison. We believe a hospital complete with medical facilities-not a prison cell-is the place for old and sick inmates like him,” Edeliza P. Hernandez, Medical Action Group (MAG) said.

Tatay Umbrero has been dying to taste freedom through executive clemency by President Benigno Aquino III. He was in detention at NBP since 2004.

If the government chose to take concrete steps over indecision, Tatay Umbrero could have joined his loved ones and enjoyed the remaining days of his life outside the prison walls.

“We could not understand why the government has not expedited Tatay Umbrero’s release, when he have already served his minimum sentence and no longer pose any danger to society. With the single stroke of a pen, PNoy could have immediately signed the application for executive clemency of Tatay Umbrero and ordered his immediate release,” MAG added.

MAG said that “what happened to Tatay Umbrero, highlight the problems besetting our correction system. As of November 7, 2007, based on the Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care (ECPPC) data showed that there are 122 convicts who are eligible for pardon, having already reached the age of 70.”

MAG submitted to the DOJ proposed amendments on the Rules of Parole and Amended Guidelines for Recommending Executive Clemency of the 2006 Revised Manual of the Board of Pardons and Parole, Section 3, Extraordinary Circumstances, which are:

1. On the age cut-off, we proposed to lower the age requirement to sixty (60) from seventy (70) years old; and

2. To include terminally ill prisoners and debilitating diseases.


“We call on PNoy and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to study our proposals when it comes to rehabilitation of elderly and terminally-ill prisoners that will bring greater efficiency in rehabilitation of prisoners as well as towards in conformity to the principle of restorative justice,” MAG continued.

“Hopefully, he does this before another inmate die in prison under his watch,” MAG said.

Several studies on prison and correctional reforms have proposed establishing a humanitarian medical policy for those who are serving life sentences, humanitarian ground must be defined for those who must be considered for pardon and parole, and for executive clemency, that includes those who are elderly and terminally ill.

MAG claimed that there are of course recidivist criminals but there are also examples of prisoners who have reformed themselves and several studies found that releasing aged and terminally ill prisoners poses little, if any, risk to public safety. The process should spell out principles of legality and humanity, and this in conformity with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners.

“The vision of rehabilitation of inmates should be protected and uphold, not undermined,” MAG said.