[OPINION] An open letter to the PAO on Persons Deprived of Liberty

Honorable Persida Acosta
Chief, Public Attorney's Office

Dear Chief Persida Acosta:

Magandang araw po.

I wish to forward to you the letter of Noemi, the sister of a Person Deprived of Liberty (PDL) in the Quezon City Jail. In it, she expresses her distress regarding the extreme congestion in the said facility. Currently, one jail officer has been confirmed to be COVID-19 positive, and there have also been reports on the death of a PDL due to a possible, though unconfirmed, case of the virus.

I know that you and the rest of the PAO lawyers nationwide are doing your best to provide individual-level legal representation for PDLs. However, considering the magnitude of the pandemic and the importance of quick action, I humbly recommend that the PAO request a national appeal to the Supreme Court to release low-level, non-violent, vulnerable, and bailable offenders through release on self-recognizance.

This compassionate release based on the public health emergency and on humanitarian grounds will hopefully prompt the Supreme Court to issue a circular to judges nationwide allowing for such mechanisms. If such mechanisms are in place, the BJMP wardens could forward the list of qualified PDLs to their respective courts, which will have the ultimate decision to release. This will then decongest jails and give jail officers and PDLs a better chance to observe social distancing, an essential protocol to prevent infections. (READ: IN PHOTOS: The catastrophe of overcrowded jails during the coronavirus)

These mechanisms are emergent worldwide solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been recommended by the United Nations and implemented in countries as diverse as the United States, Indonesia, and Iran, among others. 

I know you are a champion of the poor and less privileged members of the community. You have been a tireless voice for the powerless. Mabuhay po kayo.

Para po sa bayang minamahal.

Raymund E. Narag
Former Detainee, Quezon City Jail (1995-2002)

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Hello Sir Raymond,

Kumusta po kayo, sir? Sana nasa mabuti po kayong kalagayan at ang iyong pamilya sa kabila ng mga nangyayari sa ating mundo.

Sir, gusto ko po sanang humingi uli ng tulong po sa inyo. Baka po may kakayahan po kayo na mabigyang-pansin [ang sitwasyon] sa loob ng Quezon City Jail. Mayroon na pong namatay sa kanila, at hinihinalang COVID-19 positive po ito. Marami na rin po sa loob ang nagkakaroon ng mga sintomas, pero wala pong nagiging aksyon para sa kanila. Sana naman po 'wag silang kalimutan ng gobyerno. Tinatakot po namin na mga kapamilya nila ay maubos sila dahil sa sakit.

Sana po may magawa po tayo para sa kanila, sir.

Maraming salamat po at God bless po sa inyo. Lagi po kayong mag-iingat.

Noemi

– Rappler.com