PDLs are citizens whose exercise of certain rights, such as the right to travel and right to privacy among others, have been curtailed by the State, but are still entitled to the same basic rights enjoyed by the rest of the citizenry in a free society.


The Asian Human Rights Commission drafted this list of prisoners' rights:

1. Prisoners have the right to be treated in a humane manner.

2. Prisoners have the right to a fair trial with adequate and free legal assistance.

3. Persons under any form of detention or imprisonment have the right to be protected from cruel, inhumane, degrading treatment and punishment, including sexual violence and other forms of torture.

4. Persons have the right to be kept in official government civilian prisons and to be protected from being imprisoned in unofficial places of detention or in military custody.

5. All persons have the right to appear in public before a legally constituted court within a short time after their arrest.

6. Prisoners have the right to fair and humane treatment which enables the maintenance of self-respect.

7. Prisoners have the right to a prison program which enhances their social and intellectual abilities.

8. Prisoners have the right to separate living arrangements in prison in accordance with the categories of gender, age, and reasons for imprisonment.

9. Prisoners awaiting trial have the right to be held separately from convicted prisoners; 

10. Political prisoners have the right to be segregated from other prisoners.

11. Prisoners have the right to communicate with their families and to maintain familial relationships.

12. Prisoners have the right to free legal assistance.


PDLs have the right to be free from abuse and against deprivation of their basic needs. They have the right against corporal punishment, or the use of physical force and solitary confinement. Prisoners have the right to exercise their religious beliefs and keep access to health services, rehabilitation programs, visitation and mail services, free legal services and materials. They have the right to complain to proper authorities.

PDLs also have a right to good conduct time allowance (GCTA) for good behavior. Women prisoners have a right to be attended by women personnel, without prejudice to male doctors and other male personnel carrying out their duties in the facilities. Foreign nationals detained in Philippine prisons have the right to communicate with the diplomatic representatives of their respective countries of origin.

The report on the 2004 National Survey of Inmates commissioned by the Supreme Court found that many inmates in Philippine prisons and jails “[lacked] adequate knowledge on the justice system, particularly on legal aid services and redress mechanism for delays in the prosecution of cases in court.” 


The survey sought to determine whether inmates had knowledge of the following legal remedies and options:

• the existence of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) before detention;

• the right to bail;

• the warrant of arrest;

• the right against involuntary admission of guilt;

• the right to legal counsel;

• the laws and rules on protection of juvenile offenders; and

• the knowledge of legal procedures after the arrest.


The survey came up with some disturbing findings. More than half (56 percent)  of inmates in city jails within the National Capital Region (and less than 50 percent in jails outside NCR) had no knowledge of the existence of PAO before detention. 

Almost 80 percent of inmates surveyed knew that they could be temporarily released through bail. But only a very small number of these inmates were able to avail themselves of this option because of poverty. Meanwhile, less than half of inmates (39-47 percent) in national prisons knew they had the right to plead not guilty or not admit to the crime they had been accused of unless proven otherwise.

“Prisoners/detainees suffer from physical barriers accessing both the legal system and appropriate intermediaries. They have difficulties getting access to information about their rights and where to get assistance,” the report concluded.


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