By Jeffrey Damicog
The Department of Health (DOH) has committed 10,000 test kits to be used by the Bureau of Corrections, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Thursday, April 23.
DOJ Undersecretary Markk Perete confirmed this after the BuCor reported that a person deprived of liberty (PDL) at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City has been tested positive with the deadly 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the first case in the national penitentiary.
“The DOH has already committed an initial 10,000 test kits for PDLs,” the DOJ spokesman told reporters.
“The first batch of mass testing will be conducted at the CIW (Correctional Institute for Women) and NBP, where the cases for COVID-19 infection were registered,” he said.
The BuCor earlier reported that 18 female PDLs at the CIW in Mandaluyong City have been tested positive with COVID-19 and were later transferred to a COVID-19 isolation area at the NBP.
“We are coordinating with DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) for the construction of a bigger quarantine area just in case there is a need for it,” Perete said.
The DOJ spokesman noted that the isolation area at the NBP has the capacity for 300 beds.
Perete said the DOJ is also coordinating with the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to help augment BuCor security.
“They are on standby in case BuCor security personnel need augmentation,” the Undersecretary said.
“As you know, one member of the BuCor personnel at the CIW has also tested positive,” he recalled.
At the moment, Perete said medical personnel including doctors and nurses have been augmented at the penal farms and colonies of the BuCor.
The DOJ spokesman allayed the fears of the Muntinlupa City local government which has already expressed disapproval over the transfer to the Bilibid of the 18 female PDLs with COVID-19.
Earlier, Muntinlupa City Mayor Jaime Fresnedi said no coordination was made and that he was not informed that the BuCor made the transfer of the PDLs with COVID-19 from CIW.
However, the DOJ spokesman stressed that informing the local government was a courtesy gesture and that “the attempts of our BuCor officials to inform them of the plan to bring into the NBP quarantine site failed as the relevant local official could not be reached.”
“In any event, we like assure the local government of Muntinlupa and the city residents that all precautions and protocols were complied with in the transportation of the individuals from CIW,” he said.
“More importantly, the quarantine facility within the NBP was constructed in accordance with WHO (World Health Organization) and DOH standards, and its management will comply with stringent health protocols,” he added.
“We therefore solicit their utmost understanding and help to minimize the risk of infection in all communities, including the communities in our penal farms and colonies,” Perete told the city government.