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Mass test prisoners, govt urged

FAMILIES of detained political prisoners has called on the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) to allow mass testing of prisoners because of the alarming rise of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in the country.

In a statement, Kapatid spokesman Fides Lim said that the mass testing will assure them that jails under BJMP’s jurisdiction are indeed 100% safe as claimed by Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.

“It stretches the imagination how the world’s most congested prison system can be kept “100% safe” from the virulent Covid-19 when it cannot even provide hygiene essentials like soap and water nor ensure nutritious food and space for social distancing, but that is the stuff of confabulation,” Lim said.

“Amusing but dangerous when human life is at stake,” she added.

In an earlier statement, Año assured the public stringent measures against the virus are in place in jails under the supervision of the BJMP.

He also rejected calls for the release of low-level offenders, among other persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) and claimed PDLs were much “safer inside.”

Meanwhile, BuCor Chief Gerald Bantag said they have disinfected the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City and have procured N95 masks, gloves, disposable ponchos, and alcohol.

Lim reiterated their appeal and added that the only way to protect prisoners is to carry out humanitarian releases of sick, elderly, and low-level offenders.

“The release of prisoners during this extreme public health emergency is now the worldwide trend, with the DILG’s counterparts in other countries like Iran, the US, Ireland, and Spain rapidly working with the courts to release many prisoners, including political prisoners as in the case of Iran,” Lim said.

BuCor and BJMP has suspended visitation privileges to jail facilities as a measure to curb the spread of Covid-19.

However, Lim cited that in Wuhan, China, infected prison officers brought the Covid-19 into their workplaces, which led to outbreaks.

“Free and compulsory mass testing for Covid-19 must likewise be extended to prison personnel who come and go inside the compounds yet who complain to us they are not provided protective gear like face masks,” she said.

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