By Jeffrey Damicog
The government has been asked to prevent a catastrophe by acting fast to release persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) who are vulnerable to COVID-19.
“The authorities must move fast,” National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) president Edre Olalia said on Thursday (April 16).
“It will be catastrophic if they twiddle and dilly-dally any longer,” he warned.
Olalia made the call after Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that it would take around a week for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to determine who among the “low risk” PDLs already serving sentences should be released.
“The process of releases, even on purely humanitarian grounds, should not be ponderous given the extreme urgency and exigency of the situation,” Olalia stated. “Time is of the essence.”
Last week, the NUPL, the Public Interest Center Law (PILC), and human rights groups Karapatan and Kapatid filed a petition asking the Supreme Court (SC) to temporarily free vulnerable PDLs, including the elderly, sick, and those who are pregnant.
The NUPL had previously explained that prison congestion and the lack of 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,” the NUPL earlier stated.
“There are calls all over the world for the release of thousands of prisoners because of the threat of the coronavirus. Even repressive governments like Iran have released more than 10,000 prisoners to ease the threat of massive deaths in prisons,” the group said.