SC: More than 22,000 detainees released since lockdown

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
SC: More than 22,000 detainees released since lockdown
This photo taken May 5, 2020 shows Persons Deprived of Liberty in a detention facility in Biñan police station.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Judiciary has released more than 22,000 detainees through videoconferencing since the lockdown was enforced, Court Administrator Midas Marquez said.

Marquez said that 1,350 trial courts were able to conduct 3,201 videoconferencing hearings while parts of the country are placed under community quarantine. The trials resulted in the release of 22,522 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) since the lockdown.

The court administrator disclosed this in a webinar hosted by the Judicial Integrity Network in ASEAN, the Supreme Court Public Information Office said in a statement Friday.

The inmates were released “either through bail or recognizance, or after serving the minimum imposable penalty for the crime they were charged,” SC said.

Marquez added the release of the PDLs also “eliminated the risk of further spread of COVID-19 infection to the inmates inside the jail facilities.”

Since the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in the country, the tribunal has issued several guidelines to help overcrowded decongest prisons and detention facilities in the country where social distancing is impossible.

These 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 expanding videoconference to cover other courts in the country.

The Bureau of Jail and Management Penology, which manages jails, reported that it identified 517 confirmed COVID-19 cases in ten of its facilities.

The Bureau of Corrections, meanwhile, said that 161 convicts, from the New Bilibid Prison and Correctional Institution for Women, have contracted the deadly virus.

The Department of Justice relaxed application for parole and executive clemency to also decongest penal facilities.

Videoconferencing in this time of pandemic

Marquez also stressed in the webinar that the use of videoconferencing technology “eliminate the safety, security and health risks posed by the personal appearance of PDLs who are ‘considered to be high-risk or afflicted with highly contagious diseases.’”

The webinar was held with Hon. Sundaresh Menon, Chief Justice of Singapore, Hon. Judge Andriani Nurdin, Vice President of the High Court of Jakarta and Hon. Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed, Chief Judge of Malaya, Malaysia.

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta earlier issued a circular saying that courts under general community quarantine will be physically open, but walk-in requests will not be entertained.

Courts in GCQ areas shall continue deciding on pending cases, the chief justice said. “The hearings, either in-court or through videoconferencing, of all the matters pending before them, in both criminal and civil cases, whether newly-filed or pending, and regardless of the stage and trial, are now herein authorized,” he added.




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