By MARLO MADRIGAL
Mar 12 2020
MANILA — An organization of relatives of political detainees called for mass release of prisoners in congested jails amid the local outbreak of the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
In a statement, KAPATID said such move is a “matter of justice.” “[W]e urge the immediate mass release of prisoners being held for low-level offenses and those who are very old and very sick,” the group said.
Prisoners aged over 60 and those with chronic diseases like tuberculosis are most vulnerable and will likely succumb to infection given the paltry or even non-existent medical care in prisons, the group added.
“That they are just prisoners anyway deserving of punishment is a boorish, unenlightened, illogical view. This is itself controverted by the FLAG report on the high judicial error rate of illegal arrests at 73 percent to 90 percent, and even by the Supreme Court’s own data on wrongful convictions, pegged at 72 percent, affecting especially prisoners belonging to the lowest socioeconomic class,” KAPATID said.
Also requested to be released were one spouse of each 10 political prisoner couple and those so-called “accidental” detainees in alleged politically-motivated arrests.
The group offers support to expedite the temporary release of prisoners.
“Our network of support among various university human rights law centers and legal and paralegal volunteers will readily assist government agencies to fast-track the paperwork for the mass release of prisoners,” it said.
The request takes inspiration from the Iranian government’s move to release 70,000 prisoners to prevent them from contracting the disease which originated from Wuhan, China.
Recently, the Philippine government has implemented lockdowns in jails. KAPATID called on the Cureau of Corrections and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology to define clear parameters for the lockdown orders in their respective prison facilities, such as timeframe and procedures on how families of political and common prisoners can continue bringing in maintenance medicines.
KAPATID also urged the prison agencies to ”ensure a regular supply of face masks and alcohol disinfectants, as well as liquid soap” for frontline prison personnel.