SC urged to release sick, elderly political prisoners amid COVID-19

Kapatid Spokesperson Fides Lim with lawyer Krissy Conti of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers. (Photo courtesy of Kapatid)

“(We) pray that they be released on humanitarian considerations through bail, recognizance or other non-custodial measures. The continued incarceration of the sick and elderly would be a virtual death sentence.”

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Relatives of political prisoners filed a petition with the Supreme Court today, April 8, seeking for the release of sick and elderly prisoners based on humanitarian grounds.

Assisted by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and the Public Interest Law Center (PILC), Kapatid, an organization of families and friends of political prisoners, appealed for the high court’s “compassionate intervention and exercise of equity jurisdiction.”

The petition stemmed from the call of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to release prisoners who are vulnerable to contracting coronavirus disease 2019.

Many nations have heeded the UN expert’s appeal, including the United States. In the Philippines, however, the government has yet to act on the call.

“The right to health and medical care in prisons is guaranteed under the right to life. The UN Human Rights Committee imposes upon the State detaining an individual to take responsibility to care for their life and well-being,” the petition read.

Kapatid lamented that while the government responds to the pandemic, it has never included those who are in jail who will suffer devastating effect if pandemic has infected at least one prisoner.

“Petitioners are praying for a fair chance at surviving the devastating impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in spaces that are not blighted with overcrowding and lack of access to hygiene measures and medical care,” the petition read.

The petition includes at least 22 political prisoners, mostly sick and elderly. They are:

1. Dionisio S. Almonte, 62 years old, suffers nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (Metro Manila District Jail 4, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City)

2. Ireneo O. Atadero, Jr., 57 years old, with hypertensive with type 2 diabetes mellitus (Metro Manila District Jail 4, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City)

3. Emmanuel Bacarra, 55 years old, with hypertensive heart disease stage 1, non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus type 2, TC Benign prostatic hypertrophy and osteoarthritis. (Metro Manila District Jail 4, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City)

4. Alexander Ramonita K. Birondo, 68 years old, has bronchial asthma and dyslipidemia; (Metro Manila District Jail 4, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City)

5. Winona Marie O. Birondo, 61 years old, who also has bronchial asthma cellulitis and dyslipidemia; (Metro Manila District Jail 4, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City)

6. Rey Claro Casambre, 68 years old, has diabetes mellitus with vascular and neurologic complications; (Metro Manila District Jail 4, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City)

7. Fernando T. Castillo, 60 years old, suffering from hypertension; 7(Metro Manila District Jail 4, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City)

8. Francisco Fernandez, Jr., 71 years old, with hypertensive cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; (Metro Manila District Jail 4, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City)

9. Renante Gamara, 62 years old (Metro Manila District Jail 4, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City)

10. Vicente P. Ladlad, 70 years old, suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, particularly emphysema, as well as hypertension (Metro Manila District Jail 4, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City)

11. Ediesel R. Legaspi, 62 years old, has hypertension; (Metro Manila District Jail 4, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City)

12. Adelberto A. Silva, 72 years old, hypertensive and had post triple percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty and post myocardial infarction in 2002(Metro Manila District Jail 4, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City)

13. Alberto L. Villamor, 63 years old, type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension stage 2, microalburminuria, dermatophy and neuropathy; (Metro Manila District Jail 4, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City)

14. Virginia B. Villamor, 65 years old, hypertensive with bronchial asthma and has chronic recurrent major depressive disorder(Taguig City Jail Female Dorm, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City)

15. Cleofe Lagtapon, 66 years old (Taguig City Jail Female Dorm, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City)

16. Geann Perez, 21 years old, has leprosy (Taguig City Jail Female Dorm, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City)

17. Emmanuel Bacarra, 55 years old, hypertensive heart disease stage 1, non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus type 2, TC Benign prostatic hypertrophy and osteoarthritis. (Metro Manila District Jail 4, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City)

18. Oliver B. Rosales, 48 years old, with ischemic heart disease, peripheral neuropathy and acid peptic disease;(Metro Manila District Jail 4, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City)

19. Norberto A. Murillo, 66 years old, with hypertension and diabetes mellitus type 2; (Manila City Jail)

20. Reina Mae Nasino, five months old pregnant (Manila City Jail)

21. Dario Tomada, 60 years old, with diabetes mellitus type 2, bronchial asthma, T/C chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; (Manila City Jail)

22. Oscar Belleza, 63 years old, with hypertension, post craniotomy due to sub acute subdural hematoma left fronto parietal area, and who also suffered cerebrovascular accident, and mass in his right infraauricular area; (Manila City Jail)

23. Lilia Bucatcat, 73 years old (Correctional Institute for Women)

Kapatid Spokesperson Fides Lim with lawyer Krissy Conti of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers. (Photo courtesy of Kapatid)

Kapatid argued that the “petitioners‘ release from detention will not cause any prejudice to the plaintiff and the State prosecuting their respective cases.”

“In fact, their temporary removal from the ranks of persons deprived of liberty will save the State the costs of providing for their daily needs and lessen the immediate risk to the health and safety of BJMP officers and personnel. Also, as will further be discussed in this Petition, petitioners, given their advanced age and/or physical conditions, are not flight risks whose presence at trial cannot be guaranteed,” the petition read.

Humanitarian reasons

The high congestion rate in the Philippines has prompted the relatives of the political prisoners to call for the release of those who are with old age and with serious medical condition.

The Philippines has a recorded total prison population of 215,000 in 933 detention facilities. The Philippines also placed 10th in the International Committee of the Red Cross’ list of highest to lowest prison population.

This is why the petition has reiterated that prisoners who are elderly, sickly and have pre-existing conditions, be it the petitioners or not, should be released on humanitarian considerations.

Citing the data from the World Health Organization, the petitioners said one in every six people who contracted COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Furthermore, those who are more likely to develop such are people with old age and those who has underlying medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes.

They also argue that mortality rate of COVID-19 in the Philippines is about five percent, above average for the age group of 60 years old and up. High fatality rates are also those patients with health conditions.

“Indexing data from the DOH press releases shows that the two most common conditions the deceased had were hypertension and diabetes – 65 percent of the deceased had hypertension, 47 percent diabetes, and about 36 percent had both among other pre-existing conditions,” the petition read.

“The high mortality rates for the elderly and the sickly warrant particular attention for those who are in jail,” it added.

The petitioners also asserted that they are also covered of the international law including treaties, conventions and UN resolutions relevant to the rights and welfare of persons deprived of liberty.

“And their release from prison, on recognizance, on bail, or any special arrangement devised by the Honorable Court, is in consonance with these international law principles,” they added.

Fides Lim, spokesperson of Kapatid and a wife of peace consultant and political prisoner, Ladlad, hopes for the SC’s compassion and protection of their (political prisoners) right to life and health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“(We) pray that they be released on humanitarian considerations through bail, recognizance or other non-custodial measures. The continued incarceration of the sick and elderly would be a virtual death sentence,” said Lim. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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