[Action Alert] Release of low-risk offenders and those most vulnerable persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), including the sick and the elderly, and victims of political incarcerations, to help decongest jails and protect all PDLs from the COVID-19 pandemic -TFDP

ACTION ALERT: Release of low-risk offenders and those most vulnerable persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), including the sick and the elderly, and victims of political incarcerations, to help decongest jails and protect all PDLs from the COVID-19 pandemic

27 April 2020

Dear Friends,

The Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) is forwarding to you an appeal regarding the immediate release of low-risk offenders and those most vulnerable to contracting the virus, including the sick and the elderly, to ensure that the human rights of PDLs are protected, especially in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The release of all political prisoners and detainees would not only help decongest jails, but also prevent worsening injustice and suffering brought upon them by political incarceration and combat the risk of COVID-19 infection because of jail condition.

——————————-
In a news article posted on April 24, 2020, at ABS-CBN.com (https://bit.ly/2y24KA9), the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) confirmed that an inmate at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) who contracted the Coronavirus died in the evening of April 23, 2020.

Based on the BuCor data posted in its official website, the total prison population at the NBP stands at 29,173, making it the most densely populated penal facility in the country. Concerned groups fear that this would lead to the catastrophic spread of the virus among PDLs.

It was also reported earlier that 18 female PDLs from the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong who were also diagnosed Corona virus-positive were transferred to NBP.

Meanwhile, in another news article in SunStar.com.ph (https://bit.ly/3cNvsLB), it was reported that as of April 23, the total number of persons infected with the Coronavirus at the Cebu City Jail (CCJ) was 129, 116 of whom are PDLs, while 13 are jail personnel.

TFDP and other human rights organizations are in solidarity with the call to release all victims of political incarceration, torture, and victims of red-tagging and trumped-up charges, because of their political beliefs and association, amid this health crisis.

According to TFDP, as of January 2020, there are 409 political prisoners and detainees languishing in jails nationwide – 232 in Luzon, 43 in the Visayas, and 134 in Mindanao. They have been suffering political incarceration for years and are now at risk of contracting the Coronavirus.

Raymund Narag, a prison reform advocate, in his article posted and shared online as early as March, already warned that jails and prisons are among the most susceptible areas to the spread of the virus. According to him, “With an overcrowding rate of 350%, the Philippines has the most congested correctional system in the world. If one of the PDLs gets infected in the congested jails, it could be a catastrophe.”

“Our jail staff would be tremendously strained to handle the infection once it starts. Despite their best efforts and even in normal circumstances, they lack medical facilities and doctors to handle routine health problems. We have recently witnessed jail unrest in more resource-endowed jail and prison facilities in Italy and the USA. We are not sure what the outcome would be if similar unrest began in the Philippines correctional system,” he added.

Human rights groups have been urging the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice to release low-risk offenders and those most vulnerable to contracting the virus, including the sick and the elderly, for humanitarian reasons, and also to be able to decongest the facilities and prevent the impending catastrophe.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write a letter to the following authorities urging them to:

• fulfill their obligation to treat all prisoners with respect for their inherent dignity and value as human beings and ensure that their human rights are protected, especially in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic;
• conduct mass testing for COVID-19 for PDLs and jail personnel in all prison facilities;
• immediately release PDLs with low risk profiles or have committed minor and petty offenses; with imminent release dates; the elderly and the sickly; and those who are arbitrarily detained subject to court review;
• immediately release children in detentions with adequate care arrangements from relevant government agencies mandated to provide child protection;
• provide adequate housing and reasonable accommodation to PDLs who are qualified for immediate release but may not have a residence upon release while they are undergoing re-integration program;
• release all political prisoners and detainees;
• consider that any measure to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19 in places of detention must be necessary, proportionate and must be based on public health emergency guidelines on social distancing and other health measures;
• bear in mind that under no circumstance shall the isolation or quarantine be used to justify derogation of rights or the imposition of harsher penalties or less adequate conditions; and
• guarantee the protection and well-being of prison staff. The prison authorities should device appropriate work arrangement as an emergency plan, which include regular health monitoring, and provision of personnel protective equipment.

Please send your letters:

1. HIS EXCELLENCY RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE
President, Republic of the Philippines
New Executive Building, Malacanang Palace Compound
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel, Manila
1005 Philippines
Tel: +632 87368645; +632 87368603; +632-87368606; +632-87368629; +632-87368621
Telefax: +632 87368621
E-mail: pcc@malacanang.gov.ph

2. HER EXCELLENCY MARIA LEONOR G. ROBREDO
Vice President, Republic of the Philippines
Reception House 110 11th Street
Brgy. Mariana, New Manila, Quezon City
TL: +632 5346451
E-mail: vp@ovp.gov.ph; lenirobredo.ovp@gmail.com

3. HON. MENARDO GUEVARRA
Secretary, Department of Justice (DOJ)
Padre Faura Street, Ermita, Manila
1000 Philippines
Tel: +632 85218348
Telefax: +632 85262618
Trunkline: +632 85238481 loc 217
Email: osecmig@gmail.com, communications@doj.gov.ph

4. HON. EDUARDO AŇO
Secretary, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)
DILG-NAPOLCOM Center
EDSA corner Quezon Avenue, Quezon City
Tel: +632 89250330; +632 89250331
Fax: +632 89250332
Trunkline: +632 88763454 loc 1001
Email: emano@dilg.gov.ph

5. HON. JOSE LUIS MARTIN GASCON
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights (CHR)
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
Philippines
Tel: +632 89285655; +632 89266188
Telefax: +632 89290102
Email: chairgascon.chr@gmail.com

6. PNP CHIEF LT. GEN. ARCHIE GAMBOA
Philippine National Police
PNP National Headquarters
Camp General Crame, EDSA
Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines 1100
Tel: +632 87230401; +632 87220650 local 3453/3473

7. USEC GERALD Q. BANTAG
Director General, Bureau of Corrections
NBP Reservation, Muntinlupa City, Philippines, 1776
8809-80-73, 8850-32-82, 8809-97-75
Telephone: +632 850-50-02, +632 807-23-68

8. SEC. CARLITO G. GALVEZ, JR.
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
5/F Agustin I Building, F. Ortigas Jr. Road, Ortigas Center, Pasig, Philippines
Office of the Secretary: +632 637-6083
Trunk line: +632 636-0701 to 07
Fax: +632 638-2216
Email: peace.opapp@gmail.com

9. J/DIR ALLAN SULLANO IRAL, CESE
Chief, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP)
Address: 144 Mindanao Avenue, Project 8, Quezon City, Philippines 1106
Email: itu@bjmp.gov.ph
Trunkline: 89276383, 89275505, 89275807
Tel: 9276383 loc. 402

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