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DILG, DOJ, BJMP, BuCor asked to comment on plea to free COVID-19 high-risk inmates

/ 07:20 PM April 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court on Friday required government agencies handling persons deprived of liberty (PDL) to respond on calls to temporarily free inmates who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19, a respiratory ailment caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).

High Court’s Public Information Chief and Spokesperson Atty. Brian Keith Hosaka said respondents Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Justice (DOJ), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) were given up to April 24 to submit their comments.

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“This period is non-extendible,” Hosaka said.

The petition was filed by the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL). They are seeking the temporary release of 22 inmates who are elderly, sickly, and pregnant.

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“Petitioners are praying for a fair chance at surviving the devastating impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in spaces that are not blighted with overcrowding and lack of access to hygiene measures and medical care,” read the petition.

READ: SC asked to temporary allow release of ‘vulnerable members of prison population’

Various groups also sent letters to the Supreme Court calling for humanitarian consideration for inmates that are deemed “highly vulnerable” to contract the deadly disease while inside detention.

In March, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said prisoners are safer inside jails amid the COVID-19 outbreak because of prevailing restrictions in these facilities.

On Friday, however, BJMP confirmed that nine inmates and nine of its staff have been confirmed positive for SARS-CoV-2.

KGA

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