The Department of Justice (DOJ) has worked for the release of the elderly and sickly prisoners even before the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
This, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in response to the call.
Guevarra is one of the respondents in a recently filed petition asking the Supreme Court (SC) to order the temporary release of prisoners who claimed to be vulnerable to the infectious disease due to their age or health conditions.
Guevarra, however, declined to comment on the case, saying he has yet to receive a copy of the petition.
“But even before the COVID-19 broke out, the DOJ had instructed the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the Board of Pardons and Parole to expedite the release of, or grant executive clemency to, old and sickly PDLs (persons deprived of liberty) serving their sentence, for humanitarian reasons,” he said in a message to reporters on Monday.
Authorities from the BuCor and of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) have placed their facilities on lockdown, preventing visits to inmates, as a precautionary measure against the disease.
For their part, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said it will recommend several foreign detainees for bail to decongest its facility in Bicutan, Taguig City.
A number of governments abroad have released or announced plans to release thousands of prisoners in an effort to ease jail populations amid the pandemic.
The 23 detainees who filed the petition before the Supreme Court also cited humanitarian considerations in asking the justices for their temporary release on either bail or recognizance.
The detainees said social distancing, an expert-recommended practice to prevent the spread of the virus, is impossible in extremely overcrowded jails.
The detainees also said prisoners are already prone to diseases due to the lack of proper nutrition, medicine, and even a steady supply of water and soap.
“Needless to say, the continued incarceration of petitioners who are sick and elderly would be a virtual death sentence,” the petitioners said in their petition to the Supreme Court./Stacy Ang