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117 inmates granted parole, hundreds more ‘possibly’ eligible under simplified rules — DOJ

More than a hundred convicted prisoners have been granted parole through simplified rules amid the COVID-19 crisis and hundreds more are being processed after being considered possibly eligible, the Department of Justice said Thursday.

Citing a report from the Board of Pardons and Parole, Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said 117 persons deprived of liberty (PDL) have been granted parole as of Thursday and 424 have been deemed possibly eligible but are still waiting for a clearance from the National Bureau of Investigation.

Perete said those who will be released on parole will have to undergo quarantine at a facility in their respective penal farm and colony before being freed.

Amid calls for the release of elderly and sickly prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra approved a BPP resolution removing most documentary requirements for applications for parole and executive clemency.

The simplified rules also require the BPP to double their caseload for review and deliberation to speed up the processing of applications, Perete said last April.

The interim guidelines apply to those qualified for parole or executive clemency, as well as applicants who are over 65 years old and have served at least five years of their sentence, or those who imprisonment is  "inimical to their health," as attested by a physician certified by the Department of Health or designated by the Malacanang clinic director.

Elderly and sickly inmates and those suffering from terminal or life-threatening diseases or with serious disability will be prioritized.

Persons convicted of heinous crimes or in cases involving illegal drugs, or those classified as "high risk" by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) are excluded.

The interim rules took effect on May 15. 

The BuCor has recorded 117 COVID-19 cases in two of their facilities -- the New Bilibid Prison and the Correctional Institution for Women (CIW) -- as of May 14. At least nine patients have recovered and at least four have died as of the same date.

BuCor's seven facilities nationwide have an overall congestion rate of 314%, according to January 2020 figures. Bilibid, a prison built for over 6,000, has an inmate population of more than 29,000. The CIW houses 3,422 inmates in a space made for just 1,008. — RSJ, GMA News