By Jeffrey Damicog
An international organization of lawyers on Friday, April 17, joined calls for the government to temporarily release persons deprived of liberty (PDL) who are vulnerable to the deadly 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), which has assisted and campaigned for political prisoners and against unjust imprisonment and repression worldwide strongly supports the temporary release of prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the IADL said in a statement.
“With scientific and medical experts estimating that more individuals will be infected in the coming days, we at IADL firmly urge Philippine authorities and respectfully ask the Supreme Court as amici to urgently and favorably act on the petition and undertake parallel steps to release these prisoners,” the group also urged.
The IADL pointed out that “the Philippine penal system is in abysmal state.”
“The subhuman, overcrowding and unhygienic situation in these facilities would inevitably expose vulnerable persons to the real threat of acquiring the infectious disease,” it said.
“Such worrisome circumstances have led to the filing of an urgent petition by groups which include our colleagues from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) for the temporary release of elderly, sickly, and other vulnerable prisoners during the pandemic before the Philippine Supreme Court,” IADL added.
IADL cited that United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has already urged governments worldwide to protect the health of prisoners.
So far, IADL noted that countries such as Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Morocco, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, and United States have reportedly responded to such calls and have released a number of prisoners on humanitarian considerations.