More than 500 inmates in BJMP facilities test positive for COVID-19

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
More than 500 inmates in BJMP facilities test positive for COVID-19
In this photo taken June 2018, a K9 team searches for contraband during an inspection of the Manila City Jail.
Joven Cagande, file

MANILA, Philippines — More than 500 inmates in Bureau of Jail and Management Facilities across the nation tested positive for the new coronavirus, President Rodrigo Duterte reported to the Congress.

In his latest report, the president told lawmakers that as of May 19, BJMP identified 517 confirmed COVID-19 cases in ten of its facilities. There are 703 suspected and 86 probable cases in ten BJMP facilities.

The report did not identify where the COVID-19 patients are detained.

“The PDLs who have been found positive are currently being treated in various isolation facilities established by the BJMP,” Duterte said.

Penal and detention facilities across the country are known to be overcrowded, where social distancing and proper hygiene—practices meant to deter spread of the novel coronavirus—are practically impossible for inmates.

RELATED: Group calls for transparency in jail reports as coronavirus hits Philippine prisons

Cebu City jail rising COVID-19 cases

The FREEMAN reported last May 22 that 372 persons deprived of liberty in its facility tested positive for COVID-19.

To address the rising COVID-19 cases in Cebu City Jail, the president said that BJMP conducted swab testing of PDLs and its personnel. Isolation centers have also been established and the bureau also intensified its contact tracing.

BJMP said in a report in September 2019 that the Cebu City jail is its most populated detention facility with 5,805 inmates.

While Duterte’s report to the Congress did not indicate cases in Bureau of Corrections, the agency reported on May 15 that there are 117 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their facilities.

As of May 15, 40 of these infections are recorded at the New Bilibid Prison while 77 are from the Correctional Institution for Women.

PDL releases

Duterte also noted that the Board of Pardons and Parole—under the Department of Justice—started processing applications under the “Interim Rules on Parole and Executive Clemency.”

The guidelines, effective while the state of national emergency is in place, were crafted as part of DOJ’s study “for release of prisoners on humanitarian reasons.”

These relaxed documentary requirements for parole applications and lowered the minimum age for executive clemency to 65 years old from 70.

“As of [May 15, 2020], 144 PDLs have been granted parole and 653 pending applications for parole/executive clemency are being processed pursuant to the Interim Rules,” Duterte said.

DOJ previously said that those who are granted early release will still undergo mandatory quarantine.

The president also said that as 12 May, “53 elderly PDLs have been released from detention by virtue of a court order, 31 of whom are non-recidivists, while 21 have pre-existing medical conditions.”

The Supreme Court has previously issued guidelines that may help decongestion detention facilities in the country as the country implements measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.





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