21 detainees in isolation, swabbed for coronavirus – BJMP

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) has isolated and "swabbed" 21 detainees for coronavirus, spokesperson Xavier Solda said on Monday, April 13.

"Meron po tayong 21 na nasa isolation, napa-swab na po natin sila, inaantay na lang po natin ang resulta," Solda said at the government's Laging Handa briefer on Monday.(We have 21 in isolation, we had them swabbed so we're just waiting for the results.)

Solda said that as of writing, there are still no confirmed case of coronavirus in all 468 BJMP facilities nationwide.

Solda said in a follow-up phone interview with Rappler that the 21 isolated detainees did not show symptoms but were in contact with a detainee whose recent death is suspected to have been caused by the virus.

Solda said the detainee was not tested for coronavirus before the death; the detainee has also been cremated. The detainee died of acute myocardial infraction – a kind of heart ailment, and hypertension.

“Taking the attending physician's point of view, citing possible COVID 19 as a contributing condition is a piece of information that we cannot take lightly," Solda earlier said.

The swabbed samples of the detainees were sent to the Department of Health (DOH) for testing. The BJMP has no testing kits of their own yet.

The BJMP has completed a coronavirus isolation facility in its new jail site in Payatas, Quezon City.

Solda said the BJMP has a national management team that coordinates all actions of their facilities nationwide.

"Very transparent ang BJMP, ang ating Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) may access sa media nakakapanuod po sila ng TV, nakakapakinig sa radyo, nakakareceive sila ng important information kung paano nila mapo-protektahan 'yung sarili nila," said Solda.

(The BJMP is very transparent, PDLs have access to media, they can watch TV, listen to the radio and they receive important information on how to protect themselves.)

In support of temporary release

As calls to temporarily release sick, elderly, and low-risk prisoners mounted, the BJMP said in a letter to the House Justice Committee that it supports such recommendation but that it can only release detainees via a court order.

Solda told Rappler on Monday: "I want to reiterate that as far as the BJMP is concerend, number one, we will fully support any move of decongesting of any facilities, number two, we will only follow orders from the court."

Solda, as well as Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, earlier expressed apprehensions over this idea, saying detainees were "safer inside" jails. Solda also earlier said there is worry that the detainees might commit crimes again once released.

Solda said "all contentious issues" will be discussed by the proposed ad hoc committee. The ad hoc committee as proposed by the House Justice Committee includes BJMP.

The BJMP said it will welcome its inclusion, if ever, in the ad hoc committee to establish guidelines for such releases.  Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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