Claim it is safer inside jails is ‘detached from reality and humanity’ – NUPL
MANILA, Philippines — “The claim that it is safer inside jails is detached from reality and humanity.”
So said lawyer Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), on Friday after nine Quezon City jail detainees and nine employees of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) early in the day.
The Supreme Court later asked the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Justice (DOJ), BJMP and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to submit their comment on calls to temporarily free persons deprived of liberty (PDLs).
The petition was filed by the NUPL and the Public Interest Law Center (PILC), which are seeking the temporary release of 22 inmates. Among the inmates are elderly, sick and pregnant.
“Well, we would have wanted a speedier and accelerated process, especially so that the contagion is starting already in some jails,” Olalia said in a statement. “The time bomb is ticking faster and louder.”
“The expediency of the circumstances and imminence of the health threat calls for a more decisive, less ponderous approach even as we understand prudent and practical considerations. But it cannot, as it were, be business as usual,” Olalia added.
After announcing that Quezon City Jail inmates, as well as BJMP inmates, have contracted COVID-19, BJMP Spokesperson Xavier Solda said that they would conduct random testing of inmates in Quezon City Jail.
Before this, several groups asked the executive branch to release PDLs amid the COVID-19 threat. Rights advocate group Kapatid previously stated last March that the rising number of coronavirus cases around Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig is enough reason to test the inmates for the viral disease.
The Commission on Human Rights, meanwhile, called on the government to implement measures to protect PDLs against the threat of COVID-19.
“We just have to wait and pray it is not too late,” Olalia said about the lack of action to protect PDLs.
“And keep on knocking, if not banging on doors,” he added.
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