By Raymund Antonio
A human rights group on Wednesday has again called on the Supreme Court to resolve the petition seeking the release on humanitarian grounds of sickly and elderly political prisoners.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said that “with every day that vulnerable prisoners are not released, the lives of more and more prisoners are put at greater risk” due to the coronavirus threat in Philippine jails.
“This is a matter of life and death for the thousands of prisoners in the country’s detention facilities,” she said, adding that the SC should act urgently on the matter “before it’s too late.”
The group made the appeal a day after the High Court reportedly deferred its decision again on the petition next week, June 30.
Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta had earlier said that a decision was expected on June 16.
The petitioners asked the SC to release the political prisoners since the jail congestion makes them vulnerable to virus infection. One of them is 23-year-old Reina Mae Nasino who is due to give birth at the Manila City Jail female dorm in July.
The latest count on infected inmates was recorded at 745 in the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) detention facilities, while six prisoners have already died due to COVID-19.
There are 301 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Bureau of Correction (BuCor) facilities and 16 have already died, reports said.
Karapatan said it is concerned that the overall condition of prisoners can “prove to be dangerous, even seriously fatal,” especially for pregnant women like Nasino.
“Families of prisoners are also being kept in the dark about the actual situation in the prisons. We are gravely worried by this lack of transparency, and we are sounding the alarm that the actual numbers of inmates and the death toll in prisons might be severely underreported,” Palabay said.