Group to Peralta: Exercise compassion before retirement, solidify writ of kalayaan
MANILA, Philippines — It is not too late to exercise compassion and save human life, the families and friends of political detainees told Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta as they urge him to leave a lasting legacy by addressing jail congestion and subhuman prison conditions through a writ of kalayaan.
Kapatid, an organization of relatives and friends of political detainees said the writ of kalayaan, which was proposed by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, provides an extraordinary legal remedy grounded on social justice and humanity to address the congestion in the country’s prison system amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fides Lim, the wife of detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Vicente “Vic” Ladlad, said institutionalizing the writ of kalayaan would serve as the “lasting legacy of the Peralta Court” before his early retirement on March 2021.
“While we were upset by the Court’s remanding of our petition for the humanitarian release of at-risk prisoners during the pandemic because this would mean another extremely long, arduous wait for us, the writ of kalayaan gives us hope that not all is lost especially for those of us with elderly and very sick kin saddled with numerous manufactured cases that may outlast them beyond the grave,” the letter said.
“We only seek justice and we appeal to your sense of compassion and sensitivity to urgently address the subhuman conditions in Philippine jails that have become systemic problems,” it added.
The writ of kalayaan was suggested by Leonen in his separate opinion on the SC decision on the appeal of Ladlad and more than two dozen political detainees to be temporarily released on the ground that their medical condition and age make them vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus.
Among those who signed the petition, last April was Reina Mae Nasino, mother of Baby River. Her child died barely two months after being separated from her. She is currently detained at the Manila City Jail female dormitory.
Baby River was separated from her mother upon orders of the Manila Court despite pleas from her relatives and advocacy groups.
Nasino was among the elderly and sickly detainees who pleaded with the Supreme Court to allow them temporary liberty because they are at the most risk of getting infected with COVID-19. However, the high court referred the case to the lower courts and treat it as petitions for bail.
Justice Leonen, in his separate opinion, said a writ of kalayaan should be issued by the Court when “all the requirements too establish cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment are present.”
He said such a writ is similar to the writ of kalikasan, only that the former would be a continuing mandamus for agencies concerned to protect persons deprived of liberty from being infected with the novel coronavirus by decongesting the jails.
Leonen added that once a writ of kalayaan is issued, an executive judge would supervise the release of convicts or detainees.
“Those whose penalties are the lowest and whose crimes are brought, not by extreme malice but by the indignities of poverty may be prioritized,” Leonen said in his suggestion.
But Leonen has yet to make a formal suggestion to the en banc.
Lim said it is never too late for Peralta and the SC to exercise compassionate intervention in the case.
“Please start the process now. Please do not deny us the opportunity which was forever lost to Reina Mae Nasino when her baby daughter passed away. Life is fleeting. We hope and pray that you will heed our appeal because if the Court of Last Resort denies us an avenue, where else do we turn to?” the group said.
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