A Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency operative carries a drug-sniffing dog past inmates at the Manila City Jail during an inspection on August 29, 2019.
The STAR/Krizjohn Rosales, file photo
SC: More than 18,000 detainees released since March 17
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - May 18, 2020 - 2:55pm

MANILA, Philippines — More than 18,000 inmates have been released as of May 15, data from the Office of the Court Administrator showed.

The Supreme Court Public Information Office said that Court Administrator Midas Marquez confirmed that 18,355 Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) were released from March 17 to May 15.

A total of 795 videoconferencing hearings of cases have also been conducted from May 4 to 15, the SC PIO also said.

Last week, the SC said 4,683 more PDLs were released from April 30 to May 8. This was following the release of 9,731 detainees freed from March 17 to April 29.

Last April 30, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta issued new guidelines on the “reduced bail and recognizance as modes for releasing indigent [PDLs].”

Peralta recalled that the SC has, time and again, held that “bail is a matter of right when the offense charged is not punishable by reclusion perpetua, life imprisonment, or death.” The amount of bail should also be reasonable at all times, he stressed.

“More so during this period of public health emergency when there is a serious need to decongest our overcrowded jails and prison facilities and further prevent the spread of the virulent COVID-19,” the chief justice said in SC Administrative Circular No. 38-2020.

This was the latest in circulars released by the SC to help decongest Philippines’ overcrowded jails which include allowing electronic filing of charge sheets and transmission of release orders, reiteration of guidelines on release of qualified PDLs through self-recognizance and provisional dismissal and pilot testing of videoconference of urgent trials.

More than 22 detainees meanwhile have sought release from the SC through a petition by way of special civil action for certiorari early April.

The SC has asked the government to answer the PDLs’ plea, but has yet to issue a ruling on the case.

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