Sen. Leila de Lima wants compassionate parole for terminally-ill inmates

Published November 14, 2019, 8:15 PM

by Martin Sadongdong & Antonio Colina

By Hannah Torregoza

Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Thursday renewed her call for Congress to pass the measure granting “compassionate parole” or medical parole to terminally-ill inmates of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) based on humanitarian grounds.

Senator Leila De Lima during her press conference at Senate on Tuesday, February 21, 2017. Photo by Jansen Romero

De Lima, who is currently incarcerated at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame, made the call following recent reports of 29 NBP inmates who died inside the national penitentiary in 17 days.

“While it is admitted that we need to improve our healthcare services, including those in our jails and correctional facilities, we can also look into the policy of granting medical parole to those who truly deserve them,” said de Lima, who filed Senate Bill No. 1146 for this purpose.

“The grant of medical parole presupposes that the conditional release of a PDL (Person Deprived of Liberty) will not constitute a threat to the safety of society,” she stressed.

Medical Parole, also known as compassionate parole, refers to the conditional release of a prisoner from a correctional institution on the grounds that he is suffering from a terminal illness or an incapacity that renders him incapable of managing his own affairs.

De Lima said terminally-ill PDLs should be given a chance to serve out their sentence under the care of family members. They should also be allowed to seek better medical care outside the correctional facilities as long as they will not be a threat to the safety of society.

Earlier, Ernesto Tamayo, NBP Hospital chief, disclosed that the conditions in the country’s penitentiary have increased the mortality rate of inmates who contracted illness or diseases during their incarceration.

Of the NBP’s population of around 26,000, figures show that the mortality rate is 20 percent, with most of the deaths occurring due to infectious diseases in overcrowded cells.

De Lima, who chairs the Senate social justice, welfare and rural development committee, said institutionalizing the grant of medical parole will provide for a humane treatment of PDLs who are suffering from terminal illness or permanent incapacity.

“It also rationalizes the correctional practice by allowing the conditional release of PDLs who are no longer capable of serving their sentences within the correctional facilities due to their conditions,” she added.

De Lima, likewise, assured that her proposed measure provides a mechanism for citizens and interested parties to oppose any application in order to check against possible fraudulent grant of medical parole.

Under the bill, any person may object, to the grant of a medical parole, through the filing of a verified opposition, especially if the severity of an inmate’s disease does not qualify him for medical parole, the PDL’s release will constitute a threat to public safety, or the PDL is likely to commit an offense while on medical parole.

The measure also allows the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) to “require as a condition of medical parole” periodic examinations and diagnoses at the PDL’s expense.

The bill, likewise, requires the examining physician to submit reports of each examination and diagnosis of the PDL to the BPP.