MANILA - The Bureau of Corrections on Sunday played down calls to release inmates deemed as high-risk for COVID-19, saying keeping them inside the facilities of the Bureau of Corrections is actually safer for these people, with the coronavirus spreading outside.
BuCor Spokesperson Gabby Chaclag said that inmates in penal farms and colonies are under "natural quarantine" inside these facilities.
Chaclag said that no visitors are allowed inside the facilities, and personnel practice strict hygiene measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"So masasabi nga natin na mas ligtas pa sila dun sa loob kasi 'di sila exposed," Chaclag said in an interview with ANC.
(So we can say they are safer inside because they are not eposed.)
BuCor, however, will follow whatever the courts or higher authorities order.
Philippine jails and prisons are notoriously congested, with physical distancing impossible.
BuCor earlier reported a 310-percent congestion rate in all its facilities as of January this year, while the congestion in jails run by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology was at 534 percent as of March.
Health experts are concerned that these facilities are at high risk for COVID-19.
Last Friday, 9 inmates and 9 personnel in the Quezon City jail tested positive for COVID-19.
Chaclag meanwhile said that so far only the Correctional Institute for Women has a confirmed case of COVID-19. All other BuCor correctional facilities remain free of coronavirus infection.
He added that inmates who were considered as patients under investigation and persons under monitoring in the old classification used by the Department of Health now no longer show any symptoms. They have been taken back to their cells, Chaclag said.