MANILA – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Thursday expressed support to calls for the release of persons deprived of liberty (PDL) with minor cases to help decongest jails and prevent the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) among inmates.
Legazpi Bishop Joel Baylon, head of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care (ECPPC), said they are for the release of prisoners who are at risk such as the old, sick among others.
“We join the call from other cause-oriented human rights groups for the expeditious release of vulnerable inmates who are ill, old, as well as the youth in conflict with law, and low-risk offenders,” Baylon said in a statement endorsed by CBCP president Archbishop Romulo Valles.
Stressing that the country’s detention facilities are mostly cramped, overly-congested, and mostly unkempt, he said the probability that one will get infected and in turn infect other fellow detainees as well as the jail personnel manning the facilities, is very high.
“We call on the jail and prison authorities to implement this with great prudence, always taking into consideration the best interest of all PDLs,” he added.
Aside from the release of some PDLs, Baylon recommended that Covid-19 positive PDLs be placed in medical facilities where their needs can be attended to properly, and not in penal institutions where the possibility of transmitting the virus to other detainees and correctional personnel is very high.
“With the terrible congestion in our penal institutions, the transmission to other inmates is very high and it will be very catastrophic. We call for the urgent testing for correctional employees, and all PDLs who are (suspect and probable Covid-19 cases), and the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) for our correctional front-liners and medical teams,” he said.
He also urged the government to strictly mandate observance of protocols on isolation of confirmed, suspect and probable Covid-19 cases as well as testing and proper treatment for them.
Baylon also urged the people to strictly follow the directives of authorities and assured that they continue to pray for the front-liners, those who are infected by the virus, and authorities.
“At the outset, we enjoin everyone to cooperate and observe all the reasonable measures laid down by our civil authorities to combat this menace. Let us continue to pray for and honor our front-liners, especially the medical workers, law enforcers, jail and prison officials and personnel, for their noble efforts and sacrifices. We include in our prayers those who are still battling with the disease, that they may be healed soon,” he said.
He assured that the Catholic Church is always ready to work hand in hand with the government to curb this pandemic and mitigate its adverse effects on the people.
On Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the government is speeding up the processing of qualified convicts’ applications for probation and parole to decongest jails after several inmates have contracted Covid-19.
This came after the Department of Justice (DOJ) approved new and simplified rules for probation and parole earlier in April.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court released guidelines on the reduction of bail for indigent inmates for them to secure temporary liberty. (IA/PNA)