MANILA – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) welcomed an administrative circular issued recently by the Supreme Court (SC) to decongest the jails and prisons amidst the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said the SC ruling is a humane move in promoting social restorative justice while easing the burden of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) personnel who are working round the clock in implementing more stringent measures following the protocols of the Department of Health (DOH) to keep the country’s jail premises safe and secure.
“Malaking tulong ito sa ating mga mahihirap at matatandang nakapiit sa ating mga pasilidad na mabigyan sila ng pagkakataong makapiling muli ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay. Malaking ginhawa din ito sa ating mga tauhan sa BJMP dahil mababawasan ang kanilang mga alalahanin sa gitna ng banta ng Covid-19 (It is a great help to give our poor and old inmates a chance to be with their loved ones. It will also ease the burden of our BJMP personnel amid the Covid-19 threat),” said Año as he thanked Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta for releasing Administrative Circular 39-2020.
The SC administrative circular provided for reduced bail to those charged with crime punishable with a maximum period of reclusion temporal or 12 years and above to 20 years while those charged with crimes punishable by six months and below may be released based on recognizance.
As a key strategy, Año said the BJMP will prioritize the release of qualified persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) with court orders currently detained in BJMP facilities with confirmed cases to prevent the further spread of Covid-19 cases.
“We have been implementing very stringent measures to prevent further spread of the virus in four facilities including contact tracing, immediate isolation of suspected cases, and proper medical attention to PDLs in addition to other measures being implemented in all BJMP facilities nationwide,” he said.
Año said four out of the 468 BJMP facilities nationwide have reported Covid-19 cases. To date, 345 Covid-cases have been reported in the four facilities.
3K PDLs qualified for release
DILG Undersecretary and spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said that based on the records of the BJMP, some 3,000 PDLs across the country are qualified under the new SC guidelines and may be released as soon as court orders are received in their respective BJMP facilities.
“As far as the DILG is concerned, we will continue to support legal efforts to decongest our jails. Kung anuman ang ipag-uutos sa amin ng korte at meron ng court orders para dito, ‘yun naman po ang aming susundin (Whatever the courts will order and there are court orders, we will abide),” he said.
Malaya explained that based on the SC circular, the lawyers of the PDLs can file for a petition at their respective lower courts. Once the court has approved the petition and issued the release order, the BJMP will release the PDL on bail or on recognizance.
For the other detainees in BJMP facilities, Malaya said the BJMP will continue to implement strict measures such as electronic dalaw (visit) or “e-dalaw”, set up of handwashing areas and regular disinfection in jail premises. (ia/DILG)