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Justice heads meet on jail transfer pact

31 March 2016

By Vir B. Lumicao

The Philippine government has reportedly taken steps to revive a long-delayed agreement with Hong Kong on the reciprocal transfer of prisoners in both territories.
Sources in the Consulate told The SUN this was the purpose of Justice Secretary Emmanuel Caparas when he held talks with his Hong Kong counterpart, Rimsky Yuen, on Mar 21.
Caparas arrived the day before and held a meeting with Consul General Bernardita Catalla and other officers of the Consulate.
An insider said Caparas was to meet Yuen on reviving the Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners Agreement (TSPA) to let Filipinos sentenced to long jail terms to serve out the remaining part of their sentences in Philippine jails.
The agreement also allows for the reciprocal transfer of Hong Kong inmates in Philippine jails.
Caparas slipped out of Hong Kong shortly after the top-level talks. Both sides declined to disclose what was discussed during the meeting.
Vice Consul Fatima Quintin, head of the assistance to nationals section, said the visit was “low-key”, implying that the Philippine official simply wanted to pay a courtesy call on his Hong Kong counterpart.
A spokesman for Hong Kong’s Department of Justice also declined to disclose details. “Due to confidentiality and as a matter of protocol, in general we do not disclose the discussion between colleagues of the Department of Justice  (including the Secretary for Justice) and visiting officials,” the spokesman said.
The TSPA between Hong Kong and the Philippines was to have taken effect in 2002 but was delayed by disputes between the Philippine justice department and Congress on legal points.
A woman serving 12 years in Tai Lam prison for drug trafficking was the first Filipino to be approved for a transfer, but was released after serving her sentence.
Another Filipino, Mario delos Reyes, who is serving a life sentence for murder, was approved for TSPA but remains in Stanley Prison.
Caparas, who used to be a justice undersecretary, was named acting head of the department after his boss, Leila de Lima, stepped down.
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