By Rey Panaligan
Supreme Court (SC) justices are scheduled to meet in a full court session on Friday, April 17, to reportedly tackle two petitions, which were filed during the current national health emergency.
Since all courts nationwide are on physical shutdown, it was not known immediately if the SC justices, led by Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, would meet physically in their offices on Padre Faura Street in Ermita, Manila, or online like tele-conferencing.
SC Spokesperson Atty. Brian Keith F. Hosaka, also head of the public information office (PIO), did not disclose the agenda for Friday’s full court session.
But sources said the issues set for deliberation on Friday are the petition filed by the relatives of 22 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) for their release from detention in view of COVID-19 and the mandamus case to compel the Office of the President to release the medical records of President Duterte.
The same sources said the SC may come out with its initial action on the two cases like requiring the executive offices named respondents in the petitions to comment.
The relatives of the PDLs, those who are detained in jails while awaiting the decision on the cases filed against them, pleaded the release from jail either through bail or recognizance or other non-custodial measures to decongest jails and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Five Party-List legislators in a letter to Chief Justice Peralta supported their petition.
The legislators said “the country’s congested prison and detention facilities are undoubtedly a hotbed for infection, amplification, and spread of infectious diseases, especially of this novel virus that has a mutation for increased transmissibility.”
“In this extraordinary time, we appeal to this Honorable Court to exercise its extraordinary powers and order the release, en masse, of vulnerable persons deprived of liberty in the different detention and jail facilities all over the country,” they pleaded the SC.
Last Monday, lawyer Dino S. De Leon asked the SC to compel President Duterte to disclose his latest medical records.
In a petition, De Leon said he was forced to file the petition with the SC after his request for access to the President’s medical records was denied.
He claimed that as a citizen, he is “deeply worried” about the President’s health after viewing the March 12, 2020 televised press conference where the President “was not able to answer questions intelligibly.”
He also cited several instances when President Duterte begged off from some engagements, often at the last minute, citing health reasons.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo earlier said:
“The petition filed by a certain lawyer before the Supreme Court to compel President Duterte to disclose the results of his medical exams or other health records warrants an outright dismissal.
“The petition does not have any factual or legal basis. It is hornbook doctrine that a petition before a court of law cannot be anchored on mere conjectures or surmises.”
On the release of PDL, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said he had ordered the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) to expedite the release of elderly and sick prisoners or the grant of executive clemency to qualified detainees.
He said his order had been issued even before the outbreak of COVID-19 and long before the relatives of 22 elderly and sick prisoners petitioned the SC for their release from detention.
Guevarra was one of the respondents in the petition filed early this week by the relatives of the 22 prisoners, most of them senior citizens.
He said he has not received a copy of the petition filed with the SC. “I will give my comment once directed to do so by the SC,” he added.