By Argyll Geducos
Despite the increase in the number of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) and jail officers contracting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Malacañang said the government cannot just release inmates because there is a law that needs to be followed.
In an interview on ANC, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that despite this, an order has already been given to expedite the processing of those who may qualify for early release.
“It’s governed by law. The probation and parole are governed by law. There are requirements. But the order has been given to expedite the processing of those who may qualify for probation and parole,” he said on Wednesday.
Roque said there was a need to distinguish those who have already been convicted under the Department of Justice (DOJ) from those who are still awaiting trial under the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
He said the DOJ is already expediting the processing of convicted felons who may qualify for probation and parole to decongest detention facilities. For those awaiting trial or undergoing trial, the DILG has set up isolation places for those afflicted with COVID-19.
In his fifth weekly report to Congress on Monday, President Duterte revealed that the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) has identified the elderly prisoners who may qualify for early release.
Out of 3,384 elderly PDLs who are 60 years old and above and charged with light offenses or those punishable with arresto menor (one day to 30 days imprisonment) or arresto mayor (one month and one day to six months imprisonment), “1,927 have existing medical conditions and only 804 non-recidivists, who may qualify for the proposed early release.”
The BJMP, which, runs jails for detainees awaiting or undergoing trial, has declared a lockdown on all its 468 supervised jail facilities nationwide to address the threat of COVID-19. It had also identified 222 isolation areas and established four regional isolation centers.
The DOJ has approved the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) resolution which simplifies the requirements and procedures for the processing of applications for parole or executive clemency.
Executive clemency is made available to those over 65 years old who have served at least five years of their sentence, or those whose continued imprisonment is certified to be inimical to their health.