Sat. Apr 17th, 2021

MANILA — The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) will study the possible advantages and disadvantages of releasing vulnerable and non-violent detainees to avoid the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in the country’s overcrowded jails.

Cabinet Secretary and IATF-EID spokesperson Karlo Nograles said the IATF-EID had already tackled the proposed temporary release of vulnerable and non-violent detainees amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Pinag-usapan namin ng kaunti ng IATF. Syempre, titignan ‘yung pros and cons, ano yung mga hakbang na pwede nating gawin (The IATF talked about that. Of course, we will study the pros and cons, as well as the steps that we can do),” Nograles said in a virtual presser aired on state-run PTV-4 on Wednesday.

Non-government organization International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) earlier suggested that detention facilities in Southeast Asia should suspend arrests for non-violent offenses and release vulnerable inmates.

Nograles said the IATF-EID would let Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra use his discretion in deciding on the proposal.

“We will defer to the Secretary of the Department of Justice in this regard,” he said.

Database from the World Prison Brief found that the Philippines has the highest jail occupancy in the world.

IDPC warned that people deprived of liberty are at higher risk of acquiring Covid-19.

It said elderly, pregnant women, children, people with underlying health conditions, people awaiting trial and not convicted, and people charged with minor offense must be granted early release.

Human Rights Watch deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson on April 7 warned that the Philippines would face “catastrophic” health problems in the comings, if it does not address the overcrowding in detention facilities nationwide.

At least 23 elderly, sick, and pregnant prisoners detained in crowded jail facilities asked the Supreme Court on April 8 to order their temporary release, citing fears that their health conditions make them vulnerable to contracting Covid-19.

Visitation privileges in all prison facilities nationwide have been suspended since March, as the country fights Covid-19.

Covid-19 has so far infected 5,223 people in the Philippines. (PNA)

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