COVID-19 spread prompts 1-week suspension of visits in Philippine prisons


Posted at Mar 10 2020 01:00 PM | Updated as of Mar 12 2020 08:31 AM

MANILA (UPDATE) - Jail visits in all facilities of the Philippines' prison system are suspended for a week starting Wednesday in light of the spread of the new coronavirus in the country, the Bureau of Corrections said Tuesday.

The agency's public information office said the suspension of visitation privileges in all seven facilities located in different parts of the country is part of "safety protocols in ensuring the welfare of its stakeholders."

The bureau's facilities include the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City, the Davao Prison and Penal Farm, the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Palawan province, the San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm in Zamboanga City, the Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm in Occidental Mindoro, and the Leyte Regional Prison.

As of January this year, all facilities were hosting more than 49,000 prisoners. The bureau is in charge for the detention of convicted criminals sentenced to imprisonment for more than three years. Other convicts, as well as suspected criminals undergoing trial are under the custody of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology. 

BJMP also confirmed on Thursday that visitations in their facilities in Metro Manila, Region 1 and on certain areas in CALABARZON and Central Luzon are suspended.
However, activities of the inmates like Alternative Learning System classes and technical trainings will continue and protocols from the Department of Health is being followed by facilitators, BJMP Spokesperson Xavier Solda said.

Families may still bring food to their loved ones in jail upon regular checking. Personnel will directly give it to the designated inmate, he added. 
"Nakaalerto tayo rito. Mahigpit 'yong pagbabantay natin sa ating mga gate lalo na doon sa mga bumibisita sa mga facilities natin doon sa mga areas na allowed," Solda told radio DZMM.

"We are anticipating na just in case na magkaroon ng contracting sa loob, ready ang mga wardens natin para [sa isolation rooms]. Ginagawa ng BJMP ang buong makakaya nito para maprotektahan 'yong ating mga [persons deprived of liberty] bahagi ito sa pagrespeto sa kanilang karapatan."

The Bureau of Correction's move came in light of the recent declaration by the health department of a Code Red Alert Sub-Level 1 in the country, and President Rodrigo Duterte's subsequent declaration of Public Health Emergency over the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

"Code red Sub-level 1 is a preventive call to alert all public and private healthcare providers' readiness if a sudden increase of cases happened, just what happened in Italy and other countries in Asia," the Department of Health said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Philippines so far has 49 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 2 fatalities.