MANILA – Prison officials on Wednesday said the release of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) must be based on existing laws as they assured strict implementation of health and safety standards in the country’s jails amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) threat.
In a media statement, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) Community Relations Services head, Jail Chief Insp. Xavier Solda said they “support any legal measures to decongest our jails”.
“(It is necessary) to study first, any propositions that are not within the bounds of our existing laws,” he added.
Solda was responding to the petition filed by the Public Interest Law Center and the National Union of People’s Lawyers before the Supreme Court (SC) calling for the release of ill and elderly PDLs.
Among the issues that need to be presented to the court, he said, is an assurance that those who will be released after having been detained or convicted for low-level and non-violent offenses “will not endanger the public or at the very least, will not commit any crime during this public health emergency.”
He added that should PDLs be temporarily released, there is a need to assure the public that those people will return immediately once asked to return.
He also said presently, “the PDLs are safer inside our jails” and added that there is no assurance the PDLs who will be released will not contract the virus.
“We are deeply concerned about the PDL under our care that is why we are doing our best to strictly implement all precautionary measures to protect our facility from the virus and we are thankful that up to this date, we have no record of PDL with Covid-19 inside our jails,” he said.
Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag, meanwhile, said the agency “will only execute or implement orders of the courts and from the DOJ (Department of Justice)”.
“Doctors know best when they should be tested for Covid-19. We also follow the DOH rules on who should be tested. So far there is no candidate for Covid-19 test. And there are no Covid-19 cases in BuCor so far. We pray, hope and intend to remain that way,” Chaclag said. (PNA)