Rights group prods gov’t to free vulnerable PDLs

Published April 14, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Jeffrey Damicog

A human rights group has urged the government to immediately free “vulnerable” persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) due to the possible outbreak of the deadly 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in prisons.

The New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Poblacion, Muntinlupa (Photo by Jonathan Hicap)
The New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Poblacion, Muntinlupa (Photo by Jonathan Hicap / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Rights group Kapatid made the appeal after Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra revealed that the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) have been directed to expedite the release of elderly and sick PDLs.

“The Department of Justice (DOJ) said it ordered the Bureau of Corrections and the Board of Pardons and Parole to fast-track the release of elderly and sick prisoners even before the coronavirus outbreak,” Kapatid said.

“The DOJ position, together with the House Committee on Justice recommendations and the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) support for the release of at-risk prisoners, plus the pending petition in the Supreme Court filed by political prisoners’ families, should pave the way for immediate releases of prisoners on humanitarian grounds,” it pointed out.

Just last week, human rights groups Kapatid, Karapatan, Public Interest Law Center (PILC), and the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) to allow the temporary release of vulnerable PDLs.

“We thus reiterate that the national government, in coordination with prison agencies, promptly work on processing the release of vulnerable prisoners – the elderly and the sick with existing underlying conditions, pregnant prisoners, those with low-level offenses, those already eligible for release and parole, the incidental victims of political arrest, and the wife from 11 political prisoner couples so she can at least help her imprisoned husband and their family during this perilous times,” it said.

“Prisoners have the right to live,” Kapatid stressed.

Kapatid cited that Malacanang has already revealed its recent weekly report to Congress that Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) facilities nationwide already have 74 PDLs and 80 personnel who are considered persons under monitoring (PUM) for possible exposure to COVID-19 as well as two PDLs and one personnel considered as person under investigation (PUI).

“What we in KAPATID have repeatedly warned about is now happening. No jails are 100% safe,” it said.

Though it welcomes the assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in setting up isolation centers for BuCor and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) prisoners under COVID-19 monitoring or investigation, Kapatid said “these facilities will not be enough to check nor contain the rapid spread of the contagion when the DOH (Department of Health) itself confirms sustained community transmission of the disease.”