More than 14,000 inmates released from jail amid COVID-19 pandemic

Supreme Court data showed the Philippine government had released over 14,000 inmates from with 4,000 detainees released last week amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to SC Public Information Office (PIO), 4,683 persons deprived of liberty (PDL) were released from April 40 to May 8. This is after Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta ordered administrative circulars on reduced bails and pilot testing of criminal case hearings through videoconferencing.

The Chief Justice earlier reported 9,731 inmates were released from March 17 to April 29. Peralta said the release was facilitated through the court initiatives such as electronic filing of cases and transmission of release orders.

The data of the Supreme Court, however, did not coincide with the figures President Rodrigo Duterte submitted to Congress on Monday.

Palace Spokesperson explained the difference has something to do with where the inmates were kept in custody.

The President said the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) gave paralegal assistance to PDLs, which resulted in the “expedited release” of 4,188 detainees from March 17 to April 30.

Inmates released from amid COVID-19 pandemic

SC spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka also explained the records of the Supreme Court are based on the reports of courts nationwide. The figures he said do not specify whether the inmates are under the BJMP custody or of law enforcement agencies like the police.

“Those not in the BJMP count were PDLs not in their custody,” Hosaka explained.

Hosaka said there were individuals arrested from March 17 to April 29 who were no longer turned over to the BJMP. The law enforcement agency already detained them until courts ordered their release.

Meanwhile, CS PIO said courts in Baguio City, Metro Manila, Cebu City, and some cities in Mindanao also started its pilot testing on conducting hearings via videoconferencing. Other courts across the country are also expected to do the same.

In April, a group of prisoners considered vulnerable and at-risk to COVID-19 infection asked the Supreme Court for a temporary release amid the pandemic.

Twenty-three prisoners filed a petition by way of special civil action for certiorari, but their case is still pending before the SC.

As of this posting, the Philippines recorded a total of 11,086 COVID-19 cases, 726 deaths, and 1,999 recoveries.