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Lawyers’ group makes appeal to decongest Mindanao jails vulnerable to COVID-19 infection

BJMP urged: Temporarily free political, elderly prisoners

By: Froilan Gallardo - Correspondent/CDN Digital | April 19,2020 - 07:00 AM

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines—A group of human rights lawyers has asked the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology  (BJMP) for the temporary release of non-violent prisoners including the elderly and political prisoners.

Lawyer Czarina Golda S. Musni, Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao secretary general, said provincial jails across Mindanao were overflowing with prisoners making them vulnerable to COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) infection.

Musni cited the Misamis Oriental provincial jail which had been packed with detainees including the elderly and at least 14 political prisoners.

“All jailhouses in Mindanao are congested making it impossible to practice social distancing,” Musni said.

Read more: Coronavirus and COVID-19: Caregiving for the elderly

Musni said the elderly detainees; political prisoners who had aged to their senior years; and the immuno-compromised would be at risk of infection and, worse, death.

She said the temporary release of the detainees should be subject to the rules of court on bail, recognizance or special arrangement by the Supreme Court.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) joined the growing concern of detainees in the congested jailhouses in the country.

ICRC Head of Delegation Boris Michel said the number of confirmed COVID-positive cases of detainees and jail staff at the Quezon City Jail was something to worry about.

Read more: Coronavirus hits Quezon City Jail: 9 inmates, 9 officers infected

The BJMP reported that nine inmates and nine of their staff in the Quezon City Jail have been tested positive of the coronavirus.

Michel said the ICRC would be helping the BJMP by providing them with materials, equipment and infection-control training for its staff./dbs

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