MANILA – The Department of the Interior and Local Government on Friday urged local government units to include jails in mass testing as part of efforts to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

DILG Undersecretary and spokesperson Jonathan Malaya made the call after nine detainees and nine personnel of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) have tested positive for Covid-19.

“Nananawagan kami sa (We appeal to) LGUs who are doing their own work of mass testing, in case there are jails in their respective areas so the jail warden can report (suspect or probable cases) so they can be given priority). We are closely working with the Department of Health (DoH). All efforts are being done to ensure the safety of detainees,” Malaya said in a virtual press conference.

BJMP Community Relations Services head, Jail Chief Insp. Xavier Solda said the nine persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) who tested positive for the disease were from the male dormitory of the Quezon City Jail.

He said they were among the 41 PDLs who were earlier isolated and got tested for Covid-19 after having a direct contact with a detainee who died of heart attack but was suspected to be positive of the virus.

One of the 41 PDLs, who is an elderly, was brought to the Lung Center of the Philippines due to his medical condition but Solda clarified that he tested negative for Covid-19.

Solda said the others were being treated in an isolation facility in Payatas which was constructed through the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Philippine Red Cross.

He said they are being attended to by their health officers together with the assistance of the Department of Health and the Quezon City government.

Solda, however, ensured that the BJMP is taking all precautionary measures to ensure the welfare of the PDLs in the said facility.

“Now, we are doing an extensive contact tracing. We have a team assigned to do it. Since we are already observing reverse isolation for PDL manifesting Covid-19 like symptoms, meaning (if you have) cough, fever, and colds, or (you have pre-existing) medical conditions, we can ascertain with slight ease where to focus our efforts from among the total number of PDL we have in the facility,” he said during the virtual press conference.

Malaya, meanwhile, said the release of the detainees is up to the courts.

“As for us at the DILG-BJMP, we comply with the directives of the courts. So there are some suggestions for the release of some detainees. These have to undergo proper judicial process. As long as there is court authorization, there will be no problems,” Malaya said.

Meanwhile, Solda said the nine BJMP personnel who were tested positive for the virus were under home quarantine and were experiencing mild symptoms of the illness.

At present, the BJMP has 14,875 personnel manning jails where persons with pending criminal cases are detained.

After conviction, the PDLs are transferred to prisons run by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCOr). (PNA)

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