Relatives of vulnerable political prisoners filed a formal petition before the Supreme Court on April 8 to call for their immediate release amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak, there has been a mounting clamor for the release of prisoners especially the elderly, sick, pregnant and nursing mothers, even temporarily, as they are highly vulnerable to the deadly virus. Among them are 23 political prisoners who are being detained based on trumped up charges.
It is impossible to maintain social distancing in jails due to heavy congestion. Prison facilities also lack sufficient sanitation equipment. In Bicutan where political prisoners are detained, 4-5 individuals are cramped in 2×4-meter cells. Some of them are highly vulnerable as they are suffering from old age infirmities and various complications such as chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma.
Conditions even worsened with the Duterte regime’s militarist lockdown implementation. Earlier during its implementation, relatives of detainees were allowed to bring food and medicines through the service of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP). This service will be stopped if the reactionary state is going to impose stricter restrictions. Prisoners are fed only twice a day.
Not all prisoners are provided with face masks. There is a high chance that they will get infected in case of an outbreak in prison facilities. In the Quezon City Jail, nine prisoners already tested positive for Covid-19. Nine others suspected of being infected had to be isolated.