Dispatch from Crame No. 735: Sen. Leila M. de Lima’s statement on COVID management in Prisons


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In times of a global pandemic, who will care for the least of us?

While our country braces for the worst effects of COVID-19, we should also spare a thought for those languishing in our jails and prisons. Many are still undergoing trial and most belong to the poorest sectors of our society.

The Senate hearings in the past few months exposed to our national consciousness the pitiful state of our countrymen in the jails and prisons. They have barely decent food, horrible sanitation, and there is no guarantee that they will even have floor space to sleep in. Now with some ongoing construction in Bilibid, my office received reports that the inmates are sleeping in makeshift tents in the streetways in the facility. The sweltering heat we now feel at the onset of summer can only aggravate their distressing condition.

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, there is already a serious public health issue in our jails and prisons. The persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) already have limited access to clean water, bathroom and sewage facilities, and health services. BuCor admitted during the Senate hearings that at least 5,000 (???) inmates die inside NBP every year from causes that would have been preventable had they had access to better health care and sanitation. I imagine how this can be disastrous in a pandemic of COVID-19’s magnitude.

I implore the BJMP and BuCor to ensure that the PDLs will also be considered in our national plan against COVID-19. The limited visitation arrangements is a good first step towards preventing the introduction of COVID-19 in our detention centers. We can ask our PDLs to help keep the facilities clean but we must also ensure that the facilities have access to cleaning materials and equipment, disinfectants, and clean water.

The PDLs are wards of our state. They are confined in jails and prisons for safekeeping and rehabilitation and not to die there because of horrible conditions. They, too, deserve our compassion and attention.

We pray that our country survive this pandemic and we hope that we all play our role towards helping our countrymen, no matter their station in life. ###

(Access the handwritten version of Dispatch from Crame No. 735, here: https://issuu.com/senatorleilam.delima/docs/dispatch_no._735)

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