'On humanitarian grounds:' Vulnerable, at-risk prisoners ask SC for temporary release amid COVID-19 crisis
This March 21, 2020 photo shows detainees at the Quezon City Jail.
The STAR/Boy Santos

'On humanitarian grounds:' Vulnerable, at-risk prisoners ask SC for temporary release amid COVID-19 crisis

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - April 8, 2020 - 12:05pm

MANILA, Philippines — Detainees deemed vulnerable and at-risk to the novel coronavirus sought an order for their temporary release from the Supreme Court, citing that the Philippines will record a staggering number of fatalities in our overcrowded prisons.

A group of 23 prisoners filed a petition by way of a special civil action for certiorari on Wednesday and asked the tribunal to direct their temporary release during “the duration of the state of public health emergency, national calamity, lockdown and community quarantine due to the threats of the COVID-19.”

The SC may also direct the release of the prisoners through bail, they said.

The group, represented by rights lawyers, also urged the SC to order the creation of a Prisoner Release Committee to study and implement the release of other prisoners who are similarly situated as them.

“Petitioners are praying for a fair chance at surviving the devastating impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in spaces that are not blighted with the overcrowding and lack of access to hygiene measures and medical care,” their plea read.

The group of petitioners are composed of political prisoners and detainees who are elderly sick or pregnant, and are committed to crowded facilities where social distancing is “practically impossible.”

Earlier this week, the Quezon City Jail placed 15 inmates under isolation after they came in contact with an inmate who died of suspected COVID-19 on March 25.

Experts suggest social distancing, which means standing at least six feet away from each other, to prevent the spread of the new pathogen that is transmitted easily through droplets.

But in the Philippines’ overcrowded prisons—the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology  previously admitted to housing detainees more than five time its capacity—social distancing is an unreachable luxury.

Noting that the state of our detention facilities is not a matter that can be resolved immediately, the petitioners said: “The fatalities among the vulnerable sectors in these prisons will be staggering once COVID-19 sets in.”

The new coronavirus has infected 3,764 in the Philippines. Death toll is at 177 while 84 have so far recovered.

Bail on humanitarian grounds

The petitioners raised that allowing the temporary release of prisoners amid the pandemic is a discussion in governments across the world, such as in India, Iran, Turkey and Australia have begun temporarily releasing prisoners amid the global outbreak.

The SC has, too, ordered the release through bail on humanitarian grounds in several cases such as when it allowed former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile to walk free amid a plunder trial.

Citing Enrile vs Sandiganbayan, the petitioners said that the SC explained: “[T]he Philippine authorities are under obligation to make available to every person under detention such remedies, which safeguard their fundamental right to liberty.”

The SC in Enrile and an earlier case, Dela Rama vs. People’s Court, “deemed it proper to grant bail as the continued incarceration of the petitioners in both cases would be injurious to their health or endanger their lives,” the petitioners noted.

They also stressed that the petitioners are not flight risks—a reason cited by the SC in Enrile’s release—as they are old, frail, sickly and have mo capacity to flee.
They added: “While they are charged with common crimes, the arrest, detention and charges against petitioners are due to their political beliefs. They are not hardened criminals.”

The petitioners sought for the SC’s “compassion and protection of their right to life and health amid the COVID-19 pandemic” and asked that they may be released on humanitarian reasons.

“Needless to say, the continued incarceration of petitioners who are sick and elderly would be a virtual death sentence,” they added.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: March 27, 2021 - 8:09pm

Photo shows members of the Philippine National Police deployed in Manila amid COVID-19 threat. The STAR/Edd Gumban

President Rodrigo Duterte on March 16, 2020 declares an enhanced community quarantine over all of mainland Luzon, an expansion of an earlier general community quarantine over the National Capital Region.

The entire National Capital Region—16 cities and a municipality—is under community quarantine from March 15 to April 14, which means the enforcement of social distancing measures like letting fewer people on public transportation, reduced store hours, and the possibiity of curfews.

According to a memorandum issued by the Palace on Saturday, March 14, the quarantine means that "movement of people shall be limited to accessing basic necessities and work; and uniformed personnel and quarantine officers shall be present at border points."

Travel restrictions in and out of the capital will also be implemented.

March 27, 2021 - 8:09pm

A labor group says another lockdown will never resolve rising COVID-19 cases in the Philippines after the government announced that Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan and Rizal are placed under the enhanced community quarantine starting Monday.

“The Duterte government seems to be deliberate in focusing its efforts in imposing quarantine and lockdown measures instead of addressing the rising cases of COVID-19 and the worsening state of the pandemic through medical solutions and scientific approach,” says Defend Jobs Philippines.



March 27, 2021 - 7:06pm

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says the implementation of enhanced community quarantine is meant to slow down the increase of COVID-19 cases, so hospitals and health workers will not be overwhelmed.

March 27, 2021 - 6:37pm

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announces that Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan and Rizal are placed under enhanced community quarantine starting Monday, March 29.

January 19, 2021 - 6:04pm

Tuguegarao City will be placed under enhanced community quarantine from January 20 to 29 due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the city.

Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba approved the request of Tuguegarao Mayor Jefferson Soriano to place the city under ECQ for 10 days.

According to the Cagayan Provincial Information Office, the city currently has 246 active cases.


Posted by Cagayan Provincial Information Office on Tuesday, 19 January 2021
April 29, 2020 - 7:51pm

Batangas, one of the provinces hardest hit by the novel coronavirus, has reported no new cases of the disease for two consecutive days.

The provincial DOH Office says the number of COVID-19 cases in the province stood at 91 with no new cases as of Wednesday afternoon.

Lipa City has the most cases with 26, followed by Batangas City (21) and Nasugbu (11).

Tanauan City has the fourth most cases with eight, followed by Bauan (5) and Alitagtag (3). Cuenca and Sto. Tomas City had two cases each, while the municipalities of Calaca, Lemery, Lian, Lobo, Mabini, Mataas na Kahoy, Padre Garcia, San Jose, San Juan, San Pascual and Taal had one case each, respectively. — The Filipino Connection

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with