Group seeks dialogue to decongest jails amid virus threat

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 30 2020 09:07 PM

Inmates lie to sleep at the crowded courtyard of the jail in Quezon City. The United Nations recently sounded the alarm on packed detention centers being vulnerable to the new coronavirus because of challenges in physical distancing and self isolation, and urged governments to do something about the situation. Jire Carreon, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - A group of families and friends of political prisoners on Wednesday called for dialogue with authorities to implement measures against COVID-19 inside detention facilities.

In a virtual forum, Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim urged the government to release more prisoners amid concerns over the spread of the virus inside crowded jails.

"Ang bilangguan ay ang pinakapeligrosong lugar. It's the worst place sa panahon ng pandemiya. At ang mga bilangguan sa Pilipinas ang pinakapeligroso sa lahat," she said.

It has been 6 months, Lim said, since they last visited their relatives because of the lockdowns.

"We don't know what is really going on because prison authorities are silent about the real condition of prisoners in the midst of unreported deaths," she said.

Lim is the wife of National Democractic Front (NDF) consultant Vicente Ladlad, who was arrested in November 2018 for illegal possession of firearms charges. Ladlad had said the evidence were planted.

To protect the prisoners, Kapatid urged the government to release low-level offenders, as well as sick and old prisoners.

The government must halt jailing quarantine violators and suspend political arrests, the group added.

Kapatid also called for COVID-19 testing to all prisoners, and regularize online communication between persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) and their family through "electronic dalaw".

Dr. Reggie Pamugas of Health Action for Human Rights said overcrowding in detention facilities could have worsened the spread of COVID-19.

"Nakakaalarma 'yung ating mga detention center o 'yung jails o mga kulungan kung saan puwede silang maging incubator o hotbed ng COVID-19 infection," he said. - Report from Bettina Magsaysay, ABS-CBN News