De Lima calls for early release of some prisoners after death reports of virus-hit detainee in QC

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By Macon Araneta

Opposition Sen. Leila de Lima renewed her call on the Philippine government to decisively release qualified persons deprived of liberty (PDL) after reports that a detainee in the overcrowded Quezon City jail, suspected of contracting the novel coronavirus, has recently passed away.

De Lima again asked the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to consider her previous proposal after reports came that 15 detainees sharing the same cell with the deceased PDL were supposedly traced and isolated.

“I again call upon the IATF-EID to consider the immediate release of qualified PDLs. It’s not true that our detention facilities are ‘100 percent safe’ from COVID-19,” she said.

She stressed that the silence of the administration regarding the dire situation is almost deafening. 

Last April 1, De Lima addressed an open letter to the IATF-EID, recommending for arrangements to decongest jails and prisons through a systematic release of qualified PDLs based on humanitarian grounds with permission and approval from the Supreme Court.

The detainees or inmates to be released, she said, must fall under certain criteria, such as those 70 years old or older; with serious sickness or disability; detained pre-conviction of minor, non-violent cases and those convicted for non-violent crimes.

De Lima also emphasized those detained or convicted of heinous crimes should not be included for early release consideration.

The former justice secretary’s earlier recommendation was in accordance to preventive measures made by many governments around the world who made similar arrangements to release detainees, adhering to calls of human rights organizations and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

She advised that a staggered release of detainees and inmates, from the most overcrowded detention facilities can be implemented in areas most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the National Capital Region (NCR).

“Many of them are supposed to be out already but they aren’t because they cannot afford bail,” she added.

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