DOJ to BUCOR, parole board: expedite release of old, sick PDLs

Published April 13, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Jeffrey Damicog 

The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the Board of Pardons and Parole have been directed to speed up the release of sick and old persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday, April 13.

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra announces during a press briefing in Malacañang that the matter concerning the closure of the resorts in Boracay is currently one of the top priorities that are being discussed by the cabinet citing that it would not only concern the environmental aspect of the issue but the economic impact as well. (TOTO LOZANO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra

Guevarra made the assurance amid calls from various groups to release vulnerable PDLs who are at risk of being infected with COVID-19 in the country’s congested prisons.

Guevarra disclosed that directed both the BuCor and the Board to pursue this initiative even prior to the government’s decision to impose the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine measures.

“(E)ven before the COVID-19 (pandemic) broke out, the DOJ had instructed the Bureau of Corrections and the Board of Pardons and Parole to expedite the release of, or grant of executive clemency to, old and sickly PDLs serving their sentence, for humanitarian reasons,” he said.

Last week, human rights advocates filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking the temporary release of elderly, sickly and vulnerable PDLs.

The petition was filed the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), Public Interest Center Law (PILC), and human rights groups Karapatan and Kapatid on behalf of 22 PDLs.

They named as respondents Guevarra, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Solicitor General Jose Calida, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) Dir. Allan Iral, Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag, and five other officials of the BJMP and BuCor.

Guevarra refused to make any comment on the petition filed before the SC.

“I have not seen a copy of the petition, so I’ll reserve my comments,” the Secretary said.

According to the NUPL, prison congestion and the lack hygienic and medical facilities make the country’s jails “a hotbed for the life-threatening COVID-19.”

“Once transmission occurs in prisons, the infection and casualty rates could be more than double the rate outside. It will be like a death sentence on these prisoners,” warned NUPL secretary-general Atty. Ephraim Cortez in a statement.