SC says 109,234 prisoners released during 10 months of COVID-19

Published February 10, 2021, 4:06 PM

by Rey Panaligan 

A total of 109,234 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) has been released from jails and other detention centers nationwide during the 10-month corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19) restrictions that started last March.

Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta said the PDLs were released after in- court hearings and those conducted through video conferencing.

Peralta said the released PDLs were set free either on bail or recognizance or when they have served their minimum prison term.

Data submitted to Peralta by Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez showed that of those released from March to December last year, 51,514 were set free after hearings via video conferencing hearings while the remaining 57,720 were released through in-court hearings.

“As a result of the humanitarian measures adopted by the Supreme Court to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in detention centers and jails, numerous detainees were either allowed reduced bail, released on recognizance, or released from detention after they have served the minimum imposable penalty for the crimes they were charged with,” said Peralta.

In May last year, the SC adopted the system of court hearings via video conferencing in selected courts nationwide only in criminal cases amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Later, the online hearings were expanded to cover even civil cases and almost all courts in the country have been authorized to utilize the system.

In his report, Marquez said there were 161,885 video conferencing hearings conducted from March 17 to Dec. 31, 2020.

Aside from video conferencing, the SC also allowed the online filing of pleadings before the courts.

It has also implemented a four-day workweek in all courts to maximize court operations at the time of COVID-19 pandemic.