By Jeffrey Damicog
The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) has been accused of violating existing laws for failing to immediately inform the families of persons deprived of liberty (PDL) who have been tested positive for the deadly 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“The prison officials’ negligence in informing relatives is alarming,” read the statement issued by Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim.
“During this time of endless fears and anxieties of prisoners’ families, denying them their right to information about the actual condition of their kin is truly outrageous, callous and irresponsible,” she pointed out.
Lim reminded prison agencies of “their essential obligations under existing national and international laws and resolutions.”
Citing Republic Act 10575 or the BuCor Act of 2013, Lim said the law mandates “the BuCor to provide decent and adequate provision of basic necessities such as shelters/quarters, food, water, clothing, medicine; and properly observe prescribed privileges such as regulated communication and visitation for safekeeping in compliance with established United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.”
Despite this, she lamented reports of BuCor’s failure to inform families about the PDL who got infected. These reports have been supplied by informants to Kapatid, a support group for families and friends of political prisoners.
Among the families, Lim cited “Conchita”, a wife of a PDL, was not informed that her husband died last June 2 and only came to learn about it when she went recently to the BuCor for confirmation.
Also, she said “Eddie” had to go to the BuCor to confirm that his elderly PDL father has been tested positive of COVID-19 and moved to the quarantine facility “site Harry” inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.
“We reiterate that if authorities will not be transparent in reporting deaths and cases related to the coronavirus disease, the humanitarian crisis inside the country’s congested prison facilities will never be addressed and will only result to more problems,” Fides warned.
Meanwhile, Lim urged the government to heed Kapatid’s call for “the release and well-being of elderly and sick prisoners who are most at risk from the COVID-19 contagion.”