More than 15,000 inmates freed to decongest BJMP jails

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 2) — More than 15,000 prisoners have been released to decongest overcrowded jails, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año bared Thursday.

In a statement, Año said the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology freed the 15,000 persons deprived of liberty or PDLs from March 17 to June 22 to control the spread of COVID-19.

Of the 15,322 freed prisoners, 5,910 were from Metro Manila, 1,557 were from Calabarzon, 1,487 were from Central Visayas, 1,041 were from Central Luzon, 897 were from Zamboanga Peninsula, 762 from Northern Mindanao, while the rest are from other regions.

Año said majority of those released were senior citizens and had light or bailable offenses. The release was also authorized by courts and is in accordance with guidelines issued by the Supreme Court due to the pandemic.

This includes Administrative Circular (AC) No. 33 –2020 supplemented by the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) Circular No. 89 –2020 allowing electronic filing of information and transmission of release orders; OCA Circular No. 91 –2020 stressing guidelines for the release of qualified PDLs through self-recognizance and provisional dismissal; and AC No. 37 –2020, which authorizes pilot testing of video conference hearings of their criminal charges.

“Ang paglaya ng libo-libong PDLs ay patunay na hindi sila nakakaligtaan at hindi pinapabayaan. Patunay rin itong gumagana ang justice system sa bansa kahit pa man may pandemya,” Año added.

[Translation: The release of thousands of PDLs proves that they are not being neglected. It also shows that the justice system works in the country under the pandemic.]

To date, 549 of the 783 confirmed COVID-19 cases among PDLs have already recovered, while 90 recoveries out of 135 cases were recorded among BJMP personnel, Año said.

The Philippines has recorded a total of 38,511 COVID-19 cases and 1,270 deaths so far.