MANILA (4th UPDATE) - Nine inmates and 9 personnel in the Quezon City jail tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) said Friday.
The 9 inmates and the 9 personnel have since been isolated and are getting treatments, said BJMP spokesperson Xavier Solda.
"We will continue caring for the affected persons deprived of liberty (PDL) until they are well enough to be reintegrated back into their respective cells," Solda said in an online press briefing.
BJMP has initiated contact tracing while imposing decontamination operations at the QC jail.
At least 40 jail personnel were also tested to determine if they contracted the virus, and a new set of BJMP officials will be deployed to the QC Jail, Solda said.
"May mga pagpapalit na din ng personnel na magbabantay sa Quezon City Jail habang prinoproseso yung iba upang tingnan ang kasalukuyang estado ng kanilang kalusugan," he said.
(There will be a change in personnel in the Quezon City Jail while we process the health condition of those who are currently assigned there.)
There will also be telemedicine and telepsychology consultations to ensure that those inside the jail have proper medical and psychological assistances, the spokesperson said.
"Hindi po kami bibitaw, lumalaban po kami at patuloy na lalaban upang protektahan ang lahat ng nakabilanggo na nasa aming pangangalaga," he said.
(We will fight. We will battle on to protect all the detainees under our care.)
The BJMP sought help from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to establish an "emergency medical facility outside the Quezon City Jail as a new isolation facility," Solda said.
The ICRC have been training BJMP personnel in "handling and managing infectious diseases," he said.
"We wanted to make sure that our personnel are ready and protected before we allow the PDL to be transferred to that isolation facility," he said without disclosing the location of the quarantine center.
ICRC head of delegation Boris Michel on Friday expressed concern about the confirmation of COVID-19 cases in Quezon City Jail.
"We are very concerned about the confirmation of COVID-19 cases in Quezon City Jail, and we are continuing to assist detention authorities with our technical expertise and other support," he said in a statement.
ICRC earlier helped BJMP set up a 48-bed isolation facility outside the Quezon City Jail in Payatas. The humanitarian institution is also supporting BJMP on expanding the facility to 150 beds to respond to future needs.
"We are doing our best to support detention authorities to ensure that this facility, and 3 others that are underway -- the new San Fernando District Jail in Pampanga (for Region 3), Quezon District Jail in Pagbilao (Region 4A), both operating under the BJMP, and the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa under the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) -- are functional as soon as possible, with necessary materials, equipment and infection-control training for the staff," Michel said.
Several senators and private organizations have urged the national government to decongest penal facilities to avoid the spread of COVID-19 in the country's usually overcrowded prisons.
This can only be done if there is a court order, said Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said.
"There are some suggestions for the release of detainees ngunit ito po ay kailangan dumaan sa proper judicial process. Kung ito po ay mayroon court authorization, wala pong problema," he said.
(There are some suggestions for the release of detainees but these have to undergo the proper judicial process. If there are court authorizations for these, then there will be no problem.)
"Kung ano po ang maging decision ng ating hukuman dito - any level of court - the DILG and the BJMP will comply," he said.
(Whatever decision our judiciary makes - any level of court - the DILG and the BJMP will comply.)
As of April 16, 11:00 pm, QC has 996 confirmed cases of the COVID-19.
- With reports from Raya Capulong, DZMM