De Lima asks gov’t to take care of inmates in prisons amid COVID-19 spread

Published March 14, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Mario Casayuran

As fears over COVID-19’s spread grow, opposition Senator Leila de Lima Saturday said government should spare a thought for those languishing in the country’s jails and prisons.

Senator Leila de Lima (REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Leila de Lima

“Many are still undergoing trial and most belong to the poorest sectors of our society,’’ she said.

“The Senate hearings in the past few months exposed to our national consciousness the pitiful state of our countrymen in the jails and prisons. They have barely decent food, horrible sanitation, and there is no guarantee that they will even have floor space to sleep in. Now with some ongoing construction in Bilibid, my office received reports that the inmates are sleeping in makeshift tents in the streetways in the facility. The sweltering heat we now feel at the onset of summer can only aggravate their distressing condition.”

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, there already was a serious public health issue in Philippine  jails and prisons, she said.

A detainee herself, De Lima said persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) already have limited access to clean water, bathroom, sewage facilities, and health services.

“I implore the BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) and BuCor  (Bureau of Corrections) to ensure that the PDLs will also be considered in our national plan against COVID-19. The limited visitation arrangements is a good first step towards preventing the introduction of COVID-19 in our detention centers. We can ask our PDLs to help keep the facilities clean but we must also ensure that the facilities have access to cleaning materials and equipment, disinfectants, and clean water,’’ she pointed out.

“The PDLs are wards of our state. They are confined in jails and prisons for safekeeping and rehabilitation and not to die there because of horrible conditions. They, too, deserve our compassion and attention.

“We pray that our country survives this pandemic and we hope that we all play our role towards helping our countrymen, no matter their station in life,’’ she added.