By Jeffrey Damicog
The Public Attorneys Office (PAO) was able to push for the release of over 1,000 persons deprived of liberty (PDL) amid calls to decongest jails and prisons due to the threat of the deadly 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In a summary report to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra dated May 4, PAO Chief Persida Acosta said that PAO lawyers “moved for the release of 1,359 PDLs, including those released upon motion filed pursuant to Supreme Court OCA (Office of the Court Administrator) Circular 90-2020 dated 20 April 2020.”
The OCA circular instructed all judges to immediately conduct an inventory of their cases and determine immediately which PDLs can be covered by the existing guidelines in the release of qualified detainees.
The OCA issued the circular due to “the continuing congestion of detention facilities nationwide and the consequent high risk of Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) being afflicted with COVID-19.”
Acosta submitted the report to show PAO’s “faithful compliance with the provisions of R.A. No. 11469 or the ‘Bayanihan to Heal as One Act’ and its implementing rules and Regulations, Administrative Order No. 30, S 20220, and in pursuit of its mandate to continued to render essential legal services to its clients during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) period.”
Acosta also reported, among other actions taken, that the PAO also provided legal assistance to 9,214 persons who got arrested and presented for inquest.
The PAO chief noted that those presented for inquest were “mostly involved for violation of ECQ protocols, including prohibition on mass gathering, curfew implementation and liquor ban, as well as common crimes such as Resistance and Simple Disobedience under the Revised Penal Code, violation of Presidential Decree No. 1602 (Illegal Gambling), Republic Act No, 10591 (Unlawful possession of firearms and ammunitions), and Republic Act No. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act), among others.”
Acosta said the PAO was also able to help some patients who had no money to pay for their hospital bills.