SC tosses plea of 22 high-risk detainees to lower courts | Inquirer News

SC tosses plea of 22 high-risk detainees to lower courts

/ 07:21 PM July 14, 2020

Updated Sept. 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court has remanded to the trial courts the petition of 22 high-risk, mostly sickly or senior citizen detainees who may be temporarily released to avoid being infected by COVID-19.

“After initial and exhaustive deliberations by the Court, it was collectively determined that the Petition presented several complex issues making the interaction of applicable principles ridden with far-reaching implications,” the high court said in a statement Thursday.

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The decision was issued July 28 but a copy of the decision has yet to be released. Not even the parties have received a copy of the ruling.

COVID-19 is an acute, sometimes severe, respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus SARS-CoV2. It can be transmitted through droplets when a person coughs, sneezes, or talks.

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The government has instituted measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including physical distancing, which is a problem inside crowded jail facilities making high-risk detainees like the elderly, sickly, and pregnant prone to infection.

In this case, petitioners are mostly elderly with health conditions such as hypertension, asthma, cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, emphysema. A 21-year-old inmate has leprosy while Reina Mae Nasino has already given birth early this month. She and her baby are now at the Manila City Jail.

The source said trial courts where their cases are pending were ordered to resolve the PDLs’ petition “with dispatch.”

The petition was filed by the high-risk detainees last April. In their petition, the PDLs also asked the SC to compel the government to create a Prisoner Release Committee, “similar to those set up in other countries, to urgently study and implement the release of all other prisoners in various congested prisons throughout the country…”

The high court, in its recent statement, said the petition has been treated as an application for bail or recognizance as it noted that petitioners have been charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua (up to 40 years imprisonment).

“Hence, in order for the Petitioners to be granted bail, it is imperative to conduct hearings and receive evidence in order to weigh the strength of the prosecution’s evidence as to the guilt of the Petitioners. These proceedings are within the competence of the trial courts. The Supreme Court reiterated the doctrine that it is not the proper forum to ventilate factual questions especially if they are presented for adjudication on the first instance. Instead, the proper venue is the trial courts,” the high court said.

The high court said the petition filed before them is considered “closed and terminated.”[ac]

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TAGS: COVID19, Humanitarian Consideration, NcoV, persons deprived of liberty, Supreme Court
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