PDLs released due to COVID-19 nearing 60,000

Published August 16, 2020, 11:59 AM

by Rey Panaligan 

A total of 58,625 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), including children in conflict with the law and those who have served the minimum period of their jail terms have been released by various trial courts as of August 14.
The expeditious release of qualified prisoners through hearings via video conferencing is one of the measures adopted by the Supreme Court (SC) to decongest jails and prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in detention facilities, Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez said.
Marquez said that the SC has also directed trial courts to act expeditiously on petitions for bail by PDLs and motions for release filed by those who have served the minimum period of their jail terms.
He also said the SC has asked trial courts to minimize the movements of PDLs from one prison facility to another. An example is an order to stop the transfer of prisoners from the facilities of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology to the jails managed by the Bureau of Corrections like the National Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City.
Data released by Marquez showed that of the PDLs released by trial courts since March 17 when most courts were physically closed due to the COVID-19, a total of 12,726 of them were in the National Capital Judicial Region (NCJR), 10,354 in Region IV and 6,970 in Region VII.
Last week, the SC – through the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) – has authorized 882 more trial courts to adopt video conferencing in hearings to resolve cases.
This means that about 2,400 of the 2,600 trial courts – from the regional trial courts to the Shari’a courts – are now authorized to conduct hearings via video conferencing.
“Considering that the entire country has been under different levels of quarantine for some five months now, court action on pending cases before courts which have not been authorized to conduct video conferencing hearings has been delayed,” Marquez said in his circular to judges of 882 more trial courts.
Records showed that since May 4, 2020 when video conferencing was adopted by the SC, a total of 47,676 online hearings have been conducted by trial courts with a success rate of 85 per cent.