Dispatch from Crame No. 787: Sen. Leila M. de Lima on the commendable initiatives in releasing qualified PDLs


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Nearly 10,000 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), pre-conviction or those still awaiting trial or judgment, were ordered released by the Supreme Court within the period of March 17 to April 29, as a measure of decongesting the jails amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Presumably, this is a result of the SC’s earlier order to lower courts to facilitate the release of “overstaying” PDLs (i.e., those who have been detained for a period of at least equal to the minimum imposable penalty), and those whose cases can be provisionally dismissed for failure to prosecute.

The Supreme Court should be commended for this significant development, along with the equally laudable issuances of circulars allowing the online filing of cases and transmission of release orders; authorizing videoconference hearings on urgent matters involving PDLs; and permitting the reduction of bail and recognizance as a mode of releasing indigent PDLs.

Worthy of plaudit, as well, is the initiative of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in approving the simplified requirements and procedure of the Board of Pardons and Parole for convicted qualified PDLs. The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) should likewise be lauded when it recently reported that out of 3,384 elderly PDLs charged with light offenses, 1,927 may all be qualified for early release because of existing medical conditions. Ditto 804 of them who are non-recidivists or non-repeat offenders.

Sana po ay tuloy-tuloy na ang momentum na ito, hindi lamang para sa kapakanan ng mga kwalipikadong PDLs at mga pamilya nila, kundi para na rin sa kaligtasan at kalusugan ng mga iba pang PDLs at mga nagtatrabaho sa mga preso at detention facilities. I know that our justice sector can still do more and do better for all stakeholders, with the help of a supportive public, particularly the conscientious lawyers, litigants, correctional officers, development workers, prison reform advocates and media practitioners.

This noble cause of caring for the welfare of the PDLs reminds me of a line by Portia in Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’, which goes:

“It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.”

*Access the handwritten copy of Dispatch from Crame No. 787 here: https://issuu.com/senatorleilam.delima/docs/dispatch_no._787

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