No more excuses and no more delays for the release of political prisoners, human rights group Karapatan strongly asserted, as the Supreme Court (SC) is set to deliberate today, April 17, on the petition seeking the temporary release of sick and elderly detainees to combat the spread of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic inside the country’s highly congested prisons.
“The mass decongestion of detention facilities is a matter of life and death for the thousands of prisoners in the country especially amid the looming threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reports of inmates being isolated for suspected infection should be a cause for great alarm, especially since quarantine measures such as physical distancing are almost impossible in our overcrowded jails,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general urged. “Philippine jails are ticking time-bombs — and we cannot afford to waste more time. Political prisoners, especially the sick and the elderly, must be released now on humanitarian grounds.”
The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology said nine inmates at the Quezon City Jail have tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, according to President Rodrigo Duterte’s third weekly report to the Congress last April 7, there are 74 inmates in the Bureau of Correction facilities being isolated for suspected COVID-19 infection. In the Correctional Institution for Women, there are currently 30 suspected COVID-19 infection cases, while overcrowding at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City has led to unmanageable outbreaks of pulmonary tuberculosis last year. Despite these reports, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra stated that they need at least another week to study the proposals for the release of low-risk offenders.
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