Courts released over 43,000 detainees since lockdown in March
This photo taken on March 27, 2020 shows prison inmates at the crowded courtyard of the Quezon City jail in Manila. UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has urged countries to protect people held in overcrowded prisons and other enclosed facilities by releasing vulnerable detainees, saying COVID-19 "risks rampaging through such institutions."
AFP/Maria Tan
Courts released over 43,000 detainees since lockdown in March
Kristine Joy Patag ( - July 8, 2020 - 12:43pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Court Administrator on Tuesday said Wednesday that more than 43,000 inmates have been released by trial courts since the lockdown.

Data from OCA showed that 43,171 Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) have been released by trial courts from March 17 to July 3. Of these, 8,909 inmates — the majority — were ordered released by courts under the National Capital Judicial Region.

Broken down, trial courts in the Southern Tagalog region released 7,443 detainees while 6,203 were released by courts in Central Luzon judicial region.

OCA data showed that 3,161 were released from June 27 to July 3.

The court ordered their released through bail or on recognizance—defined as Republic Act 10389 as “mode of securing the release of any person in custody or detention for the commission of an offense who is unable to post bail due to abject poverty.”

On April 30, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta issued SC Administrative Circular 38-2020 that reduced bail and recognizance for releasing indigent PDLs. This is the latest among SC directives to decongest the overcrowded detention facilities across the country in this time of COVID-19 pandemic.

The circular may be availed only during the period of public health emergency, and covers those who were already arraigned and undergoing trial.

Other measures undertaken by the SC 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.

Political prisoners petition

The SC, however, has yet to resolve the petition for temporary release, on humanitarian grounds, filed by 22 at-risk PDLs, three months since the pleading was filed.

One of the political prisoners seeking release has since given birth. Reina Mae Asis Nacino and her infant child were brought back to the Manila City Jail female dorm a day after she gave birth.

RELATED: With SC yet to resolve pleas, a political prisoner gives birth while ABS-CBN faces another CDO

Nacino's mother, Marites Asis, wrote another letter to Peralta on Tuesday to plead for SC action on their petition. Her letter was personally received by Court Administrator Midas Marquez.

 As of Tuesday, the Department of Health recorded a total of 47,873 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country. Death toll is at 1,309, while there are 12,386 who have so far recovered from the disease.

The number of active cases in the country stood at 34,178.  

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