SC urged to exercise ‘extraordinary powers’ to allow inmates’ release amid COVID-19 crisis
MANILA, Philippines — The Makabayan bloc has called on the Supreme Court to use its “extraordinary powers” to order the mass release of inmates who are vulnerable to the possible infection of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that has already killed more than 300 in the country and infected close to 5,000.
“It is in this situation that we now write to this Honorable Court, in the particular interest of our jailed populations. The country’s congested prison and detention facilities are undoubtedly a hotbed for infection, amplification, and spread of infectious diseases, especially of his novel virus that has a mutation for increased transmissibility,” the lawmakers said in a letter addressed to Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta made public Tuesday. The letter was signed by Bayan Muna party-list Reps. Carlos Isagani Zarate and Eufemia Cullamat, ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro, Arlene Brosas of Gabriela Women’s party-list, and Sarah Elago of Kabataan party-list.
They added, “In this extraordinary time, we appeal to this Honorable Court to exercise its extraordinary powers and order the release, en mass, of vulnerable persons deprived of liberties in the different detention and jail facilities all over the country. The release of these PDLs [persons deprived of liberty], as well as other forms of relief that this Honorable Court may grant, are prayed for in the name of our shared humanity.”
They said there is already a global call for the release of prisoners, and countries like India, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Iran, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Egypt, Ireland, Wales, Morocco, Sudan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Germany, Indonesia, and the United States have already responded.
Last week, a group of political prisoners and detainees considered vulnerable members of the prison population has asked the high court to allow their temporary release for humanitarian reason.
The House Committee on Justice earlier recommended to the Peace and Order Cluster of the Defeat COVID-19 Committee the temporary release of inmates to decongest prison, noting the lack of healthcare facilities and personnel.
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