A prisoners advocacy group on Friday, April 16, expressed dismay over what it claimed as conflicting statements issued by two government agencies on the inclusion of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) in the priority list of persons for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccinations.
In a statement, Kapatid Spokesperson Fides Lim said that while a letter of the Department of Health (DOH) last March 3 stated that PDLs “as determined by BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) and BuCor (Bureau of Corrections) are included under the Priority Eligible Group B-9,” the Department of Justice (DOJ) last April 12 said that “as of now PDLs are not yet included in the priority list.”
Lim urged the government “to release a clear schedule for the vaccination of all prisoners, including the 704 political prisoners, in the national deployment plan for COVID-19 vaccines because the congested prison system places them at significant higher risk for the disease.”
“A vaccine schedule is the only way to concretize the assurance given to us by the Deparment of Health that ‘all persons deprived of liberty as determine by BJMP and BuCor, are included under the Priority Eligible Group B-9,’ and to thereby correct the avoidable confusion caused by the DOJ Secretary,” Lim said.
“It is ironic that the DOJ whose mandate includes the supervision of the Bureau of Corrections should contradict the DOH statement and ignore the plight of over 215,000 prisoners compelled to live in subhuman conditions,” Lim added.
Last Apri 12, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra had assured that the DOJ will push for the inclusion of PDLs in the priority list of COVID-19 vaccinations.
Guevarra said the DOJ “will argue on the basis of greater COVID risks due to overcrowding.”
Last March, Kapatid — the support group of political prisoners — appealed to the government to include PLDs in its list of priority groups who should get vaccinated.
Kapatid said the country has “the highest jail congestion rate in the world” and considered “a death trap” due to the spread of the virus.