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Group urges higher vaccine allocation for inmates

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Group urges higher vaccine allocation for inmates
This photo taken May 25, 2020 shows elderly inmates of the New Bilibid Prison who will undergo rapid test for COVID-19.
Bureau of Corrections / Facebook page released

MANILA, Philippines — An advocacy group for political prisoners on Thursday urged the government to allocate more vaccines for prisoners amid low numbers of inmates who received jabs against COVID-19 in packed jails.

In a statement, Kapatid called on the government to immediately allocate vaccines for Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) who are at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus in jail.

Lim recalled that Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in April that he will seek to bump up the priority category of prisoners in the government’s list for vaccination.

"What happened to [Guevarra’s] statement that his office will seek the inclusion of PDLs from the Bureau of Corrections and the [Bureau of Jail Management and Penology] in the government’s list for vaccination," she added.

Lim said the government should make PDLs more of a priority for vaccination and "directly allocate financial resources for their immunization instead of engaging in a policy spree of arrests, including politically motivated arrests, which only worsen jail congestion.

BuCor is under the Department of Justice. It manages prisons for convicts sentenced to more than three years, while the BJMP — under the Department of the Interior and Local Government — is tasked with facilities for those serving less than three sentences and undergoing trial.

Lim also noted that the Commission on Audit flagged BJMP for its 403% congestion rate, and only 10,939 of 119,692 inmates have received vaccines.

BuCor reported even lower numbers, with only 2,684 out of roughly 48,000 PDLs in its facilities having so far received vaccines against COVID-19.

The Commission on Human Rights on Sunday reminded the government of the duty to uphold the right to health of inmates detained in overcrowded jails in the country.

Guevarra earlier this week said the DOJ pushed for the inclusion of inmates under priority category 4 “if only for the reason that their space limitation makes them more vulnerable to community transmission of the disease.”

He said that with the arrival of more vaccines in the country in the coming days, they hope that “sufficient quantities could be set aside for PDLs at risk.” — Kristine Joy Patag

BUREAU OF CORRECTIONS BUREAU OF JAIL MANAGEMENT AND PENOLOGY COVID-19 VACCINES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE KAPATID MENARDO GUEVARRA NEW BILIBID PRISON
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