SC: 137,645 inmates freed since pandemic last year
This file photo taken on September 29, 2018 shows inmates sitting on the floor of Saint Dimas chapel during an anti-drug and contraband inspection at the Manila City Jail.
AFP/Noel Celis

SC: 137,645 inmates freed since pandemic last year

(Philstar.com) - April 16, 2021 - 12:53pm

MANILA, Philippines — More than 137,000 inmates have been released to decongest cramped jails since the pandemic last year, the Office of the Court Administrator said.

Court Administrator Midas Marquez said Friday that as of April 9, they recorded 137,645 Persons Deprived of Liberty released through 53,297 videoconferencing hearings.

For 11 months, from May 5, 2020 to April 9, courts nationwide have also conducted “234,540 videoconferencing hearings conducted with 87.75% success rate,” he added.

No breakdown of the releases has been made available yet, but the Supreme Court since last year issued circulars aimed to alleviate the overcrowding in our jails.

The high court has allowed electronic filing of charge sheets and transmission of release orders, reiterated guidelines on release of qualified PDLs through self-recognizance and provisional dismissal, approved pilot testing of videoconference of urgent trials and issued new guidelines on the reduced bail and recognizance as modes for releasing of indigent PDLs.

The Department of Justice, meanwhile, eased the requirements for application of parole and executive clemency to hasten decongestion of penal facilities in this time of pandemic.

The US State Department on its report on human rights practices in the Philippines in 2020 said that despite early lockdowns in prisons and inmates freed through pandemic policies, overcrowding and poor conditions in these facilities still led to the spread of COVID-19 among PDLs.

On top of overcrowding, prison facilities also suffer from “poor sanitation, inadequate ventilation, poor access to natural lighting, and a lack of potable water, further contributing to health problems,” the report found.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said his department will continue to argue for the priority vaccination of inmates as they face greater COVID-19 risk due to overcrowding.

Guevarra assured the DOJ “will make sure that PDLs will also be vaccinated like everyone else, as they are highly vulnerable to transmission of the COVID-19 virus due to lack of space.” — Kristine Joy Patag

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