By Jeffrey Damicog
Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Marvic Leonen on Saturday, May 2, urged both the legislative and executive branches as well as LGUs to help in the decongestion of prisons and detention facilities amid the threat of the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“The court is very aware of the congested situation of many of our prisons, our detention centers, and our jails,” said Leonen during an online forum conducted by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP).
“This is not only the responsibility of the court. It is likewise the responsibility of local governments, the executive, as well as the legislature,” he pointed out.
Last Thursday, April 30, SC Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta issued Administrative Circular No. 38-2020 which cited that the high court has released a number of circulars “aimed at facilitating and expediting the release of certain PDLs (persons deprived of liberty)” and has “resulted in the release of no less than 9,731 PDLs from 17 March to 29 April 2020.”
The figures include “2,082 in the National Capital Judicial Region, 4,657 in Luzon (outside NCJR), 1,072 in Visayas, and 1,920 in Mindanao.”
Peralta stated in the circular that courts have been ordered to further reduce the bail that PDLs have to pay “considering the urgent need to further decongest our detention facilities.”
“We (SC) are constantly monitoring the kinds of new mechanisms elaborated in Administrative Order 31 until Administrative Circular 38,” Leonen said.
“We just hope that those who deserve to be released will be released,” he added.
On the other hand, Leonen said the SC is careful far it can relax existing rules in order to free persons deprived of liberty (PDL) amid calls from groups to further speed up the processing of releasing PDLs.
“It may be not as fast as people think, we are not the executive, we are certainly not the legislature, but we are careful about setting precedents during this crisis,” the magistrate pointed out.