Wed. Sep 29th, 2021

“Prisoners may not be allowed gadgets, but they have the right to communicate with their loved ones.”

With nine inmates and nine personnel from the Quezon City Jail testing positive for Covid-19, it seems virtual visit will be the new norm for prisoners all over the country.

Anticipating such eventuality, a legal aid organization founded by a lawmaker prepared 25 sets of computers for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, for distribution to different jails around Metro Manila for the implementation of “e-dalaw” or electronic visit in lieu of physical visits to Persons Deprived of Liberty due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

While inmates are spending time behind bars for purposes of rehabilitation and penalty for the crimes they have committed, Lakbay Hustisya Foundation founder, Rizal 2nd District Representative Fidel Nograles, said they should not be deprived of their rights to spend time or talk to their families and that even the lockdown brought about the global pandemic should not be an obstacle to justice. 

“Where there are barriers, we must use the tools available to transcend prison walls and reach out to our PDLs,” Nograles says.

Lakbay Hustisya Foundation is a trust fund organized to support legal aid activities around the Philippines. 

Since the Enhanced Community Quarantine suspended jail visitation around Metro Manila, the neophyte solon and legal aid advocate has sought to connect inmates with their lawyers through online consultations via Skype and other technologies through the e-dalaw program of BJMP. 

While the public have their cellular phones and computers for video calls with their loved ones and online consultations with professionals, this is one luxury the PDLs don’t have.

That doesn’t mean however, that given such restrictions as inmates are not allowed to have such gadgets while inside prison, that their rights to visitation should be summarily dismissed, especially if we have the technology to bridge the communication gap, according to the Harvard-trained lawyer.

Nograles’ initiative has been highly appreciated by the BJMP. Spokesperson Xavier Solda says Lakbay Hustisya’s donation will go a long way in augmenting the scarce electronic and technological resources of jails and enhancing access to justice of PDLs despite the suspension of jail visitation rights due to the lockdown. 

Aside from the virtual visit or the e-dalaw, Nograles also reiterates the call of the House of Representatives’ Justice Committee to temporarily release prisoners who are vulnerable to contracting the novel coronavirus, particularly the elderly, those with underlying health conditions, and low-level, non-violent, and first-time offenders.

For not only it is the most humane thing to do, releasing those prisoners now could avert a potential major disaster, considering prison facilities all over the country are overcrowded, making social distancing and quarantine for those possibly infected next to impossible.

It’s always nice to hear from this neophyte solon, oozing with fresh and innovative ideas. We just hope, and if I may quote him, for “President Rodrigo Duterte and the Department of Justice will address this potential time bomb immediately.”

Good News from Alfonso

Let’s give credit where it is due.

Last month, I was supposed to write a follow-up article on the alleged premature tagging of houses for demolition in Alfonso, Cavite to give way for the Cavite-Tagaytay-Batangas Expressway even as the project has yet to gain approval from the National Economic and Development Authority.

However, with the current situation, I have decided to forego my article for the meantime.

But checking on my subject, I had to admit I was impressed at how their mayor, Randy Salamat, is performing in the midst the Covid-19 crisis. 

With Alfonso being one of the hardest-hit in the Taal Volcano eruption last January, Salamat has laid the necessary foundations for his constituent to cope up with the Covid-19 challenge.

First, Salamat distributed Anti-Covid19 hygiene kits, each containing face masks, disposable gloves, alcohol, bar soaps, and bleach. Children, pregnant women and senior citizens were made a priority.

He then tasked his Administration Officer, Erwin Signo, to design a misting machine installing them at the following areas: Welcome Arc, Public Market and Municipal Hall.

Salamat also put to task the Alfonso Bureau of Fire Protection for daily disinfecting the roads and public places. 

With the community quarantine in place and public transportation suspended, Salamat put up the Libreng Sakay, as he managed a bus schedule for those who need to buy their groceries at the Luksuhin Public Market and pharmacies. 

He also assured each of the 16,500 household in Alfonso a supply of five kilos of rice every week.

And as one of Alfonso’s source of income is farming, Salamat extended the local farmers his support by allowing them to sell their organic harvests to the people. 

Since there is a limited transportation in the municipality, Salamat also mobilized the Botika and Palengke on Wheels roaming all 32 barangays of Alfoso, enabling the people to obtain their medication and food requirements without having to go out of their safety zones.

Like Fidel Nograles, Salamat has been put to a test with this global pandemic.

And considering the Alfonso mayor had just emerged from another disaster, the Taal eruption, he is doing quite well. (ia/

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