MANILA, Philippines – The coronavirus outbreak in the Correctional Institution for Women (CIW) in Mandaluyong City took a turn for the worse as the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) said Tuesday, April 21, that 18 more inmates and 1 jail medical staff tested positive for the disease.
This is an addition to the 72-year-old Correctional inmate who tested positive while confined at the Sta Ana Hospital in Manila where she was transferred for pneumonia.
The BuCor said 51 people were traced and tested after contact to the 72-year-old. Of the 51, 42 were inmates and 9 were medical staff of BuCor.
"18 PDL (Persons Deprived of Liberty) tested COVID-19 positive and 1 (BuCor medical staff) tested COVID-19 positive," said BuCor.
"Those who tested positive were reported to have mild symptoms and some are asymptomatic. They are now being monitored and given vitamins, medicines and food supplements to strengthen their immune system," said BuCor.
Government has yet to decide whether there will be a mass release of inmates on humanitarian grounds as the pandemic poses further threat to overcongested jails. (READ: 'TAKOT NA TAKOT KAMI' While government stalls, coronavirus breaks into PH jails
Malacañang told Congress in its latest report Monday, April 20, that the Board of Pardons and Parole is currently formulating interim guidelines.
"The Board of Pardons and Parole is formulating interim guidelines for the expeditious release of PDLs who are already of old age, sickly or are suffering from terminal illnesses, or with serious disabilities, as well as those eligible for parole or executive clemency, in order to decongest penal facilities," said Malacañang.
But this is regular course for the board. The call is to release even the low-risk convicts amid the pandemic.
More inmates can also be released on Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA), but low risk convicts in Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) facilities cannot avail of early freedoms because GCTA remains suspended there.
The BuCor has not provided the exact number of convicts it has released on GCTA since September 2019 when the Antonio Sanchez scandal scuttled the process.
The Supreme Court is still deliberating on a petition to release low risk and vulnerable inmates en masse.
Meanwhile, the High Court ordered judges to conduct an inventory of cases and see whether they still have inmates under their jurisdiction that they could release following a 2014 guideline. Under this guideline, inmates who have been jailed longer than their minimum penalty, and those whose cases are unmoving because of lack of witnesses, shall be released.
Groups have been pressing government for a more holistic and urgent approach, but none has come as of writing. – Rappler.com