The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) has reported 222 cases and 10 deaths among its inmates due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Thursday.
Thirty-one persons deprived of liberty (PDL) who were infected have recovered, Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said in a statement, citing BuCor figures as of June 2.
Among BuCor personnel, 59 were confirmed to have been infected and four have recovered, he said.
Most of the cases were recorded at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, the BuCor's largest facility, logging 140 cases among PDLs and 30 among personnel. The Correctional Institution for Women was the only other facility to report cases: 82 among inmates and 18 among staff.
The BuCor's five other penal farms and colonies have not reported any case, Perete said.
Meanwhile, the DOJ turned over 1,400 rapid test kits to the BuCor last Monday for the testing of inmates, Perete said. He said the European Union, under the GoJust Program, will procure around 5,000 more rapid test kits in the coming weeks.
Several groups have called on authorities to release elderly, sickly, and non-violent prisoners and detainees amid the COVID-19 pandemic, fearing that outbreaks in the Philippines' congested prisons and detention facilities would be deadly.
In response to these calls, the DOJ simplified rules and requirements for applications for parole and executive clemency. More than a hundred convicted prisoners have been granted parole as of May 21.
The Supreme Court (SC), on the other hand, has allowed reduced bail for indigent detainees and authorized more than a thousand courts to hold online hearings -- initially on urgent cases involving PDLs, and subsequently even on non-urgent matters.
The SC said more than 22,000 detainees have been released during the COVID-19 crisis. The highest Philippine court, however, has yet to rule on a petition seeking the release of vulnerable detainees on humanitarian grounds. -MDM, GMA News