“As threats of the COVID-19 worsen day after day, congestion in prison facilities poses great risks to the health of prisoners, who, contrary to the government’s stand, are in no way safe from the dangers of the pandemic.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Different groups and individuals took to social media their call to release prisoners to avert the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Philippine jails on Thursday, April 16. The Supreme Court is scheduled to discuss the petition filed for the temporary release of persons deprived of liberty today, April 17.
Rights groups have been pushing for the release of political prisoners especially those with medical condition and the elderly using the hashtags #SetThemFree and #FreePoliticalPrisonersPH.
“As threats of the COVID-19 worsen day after day, congestion in prison facilities poses great risks to the health of prisoners, who, contrary to the government’s stand, are in no way safe from the dangers of the pandemic,” Karapatan said in a statement.
According to the group, as of March 28, there are 609 political prisoners in different detention centers and penitentiary nationwide.
Of the thousands of detainees nationwide, political prisoners who were victims of accidental and illegal arrests add to the increasing number of detainees who are at risk of contracting the virus.
— Tinay Palabay (@TinayPalabay) April 16, 2020
— Karapatan (@karapatan) April 16, 2020
Physical distancing is impossible in our prisons. According to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology October last year, detention facilities in the country posted a 450% congestion, allowing the fast transmission of infectious diseases. #FreePoliticalPrisonersPH #SetThemFree pic.twitter.com/d3pFK70wWa
— Philip Jamilla (@pmjamilla) April 16, 2020
Cora Agovida is the former spokesperson of GABRIELA Metro Manila. She led community campaigns against demolitions and the Dengvaxia issue. She is currently detained at the Manila City Jail-female facility.#FreePoliticalPrisonersPH #SetThemFree
— GABRIELA #IWD2020 (@gabrielaphils) April 12, 2020
Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat calls to free all political prisoners especially the elderly, sickly and pregnant women and nursing mothers. #TulongHindiKulong#FreeAllPoliticalPrisoners#SetThemFree pic.twitter.com/i03Z3optkF
— Rep. Eufemia C. Cullamat (@FemiaCullamat) April 16, 2020
— Kristina Conti (@chronikrissys) April 16, 2020
Xandra Liza Casambre Bisenio, daughter of political prisoner and peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre, dedicated a song entitled “Panata” for political prisoners and Filipinos enduring the challenges of the present condition.
“This is for every family wondering when promised help will really ever come as thinking where and how to source their needs for tomorrow becomes more and more difficult…” Bisenio said.
“I know that they are the ones in Tatay Rey ‘s mind right now (aside from my Nanay Patricia and their apos). Even after he was falsely accused of made-up crimes and thrown in prison to suffer all of its and Philippine courts’ deficiencies and inefficiencies, he would still tell us that our suffering is nothing compared to that of so many others especially the marginalized sectors…” she posted in her Facebook account.
Casambre has been in prison for a year for trumped-up charges. He is suffering from diabetes and is currently detained at Metro Manila District Jail 4, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.
Meanwhile, the Health Action for Human Rights (HAHR) said the Philippine government should heed the call of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bacehelet.
Geneve R. Reyes of HAHR said they have witnessed the situation of persons deprived of liberty in detention facilities which they described as “highly congested, unhygienic, unable to provide decent nutrition and lack the appropriate health facilities.”
“This situation exacerbates the already vulnerable status of the elderly, sick and pregnant detainees, and they will be the first to suffer if the virus begins its rampage in detention centers,” Reyes said in a statement adding that detainees also deserve same protection as the general public.