Include political prisoners in gov’t vaccination programs

Published August 6, 2021, 1:31 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog


An advocacy group has urged the government anew to include political prisoners in the vaccination program against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Kapatid, a support group for political prisoners and their families, sent its letter to Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra and Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III.

It said that “of the 715 political prisoners as of July 2021, 96 are sick with life-threatening illnesses and 58 are elderly.”

“We have much cause for worry as five political prisoners have already died during the pandemic—Adelaida Macusang (61), Rodrigo Lazar (44), Maximo Redota (58), Joseph Canlas (59), and Jesus Alegre (75),” Kapatid Spokesperson Fidel Lim told Guevarra and Duque.

Lim said that Kapatid learned that “not a single political prisoner was inoculated against COVID-19 and only a small fraction of the over 215,000 PDLs (persons deprived of liberty) received a dose mainly due to LGU (local government unit) efforts in their localities.”

“We stress that no one should be left behind to ensure the effectiveness of any mass immunization program against COVID-19,” she pointed out in the letter.

Lim said that prisons and the communities surrounding them are “inextricably linked.”

“Prison staff go back and forth to work, exposing PDLs to the contagion despite the continuing prison lockdown and impossibility of imposing social distance in congested facilities,” she explained.

She lamented that there remains “no clear data about the full extent of the impact of COVID-19 inside jails, including the actual death toll from the contagion.”

The so-called political prisoners are those charged or convicted of crimes committed in a political context like participation in public demonstrations for an advocacy or those suspected of membership in armed opposition groups.