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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

Nine inmates, BJMP personnel found COVID-19 positive; ICRC extends help

Nine inmates and BJMP personnel found COVID-19 positive

MANILA – The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology said at least nine inmates and nine BJMP personnel at the crowded Quezon City Jail tested positive for COVID-19.

In a video conference with media representatives and Department of Interior and Local Government and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology officials shortly before lunch today, it was learned the nine inmates have been isolated at their facility in Payatas, Quezon City.

BJMP spokesperson Major Xavier Solda said one of the nine inmates has been brought to Lung Center of the Philippines for further medical treatment while the nine BJMP personnel were placed under strict home quarantine.

The Quezon City Jail has a capacity of 800 inmates but now has nearly 4,000 inmates making social distancing and other quarantine measures impossible. A paralegal volunteer tested positive for COVID-19 about two weeks ago and was placed under home quarantine a couple of days before the lockdown was imposed.

In a related development, Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said they began coordination with the Judiciary to allow the temporary release of persons denied of liberty or inmates to decongest their crowded jails.

“The courts have the jurisdiction over our inmates and all we can do is wait on how they would act on the situation,” Malaya said. Other countries have released their detainees in their desire to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19 in their respective detention facilities.

The countries which opted to temporarily release their prisoners were Iran, Poland, Afghanistan, India, Morocco, Malta and Britain among others.

Still on the plight of detainers at the Quezon City Jail, Boris Michel, International Committee of the Red Cross head delegate to the Philippines said they are very concerned about the confirmation of COVID-19 cases at the overcrowded facility.

He said they are assisting detention authorities with technical expertise and other tangible support.

“As we reported last week the ICRC assisted the BJMP in the establishment of a 48-bed tent COVID-19 isolation facility detainees in the new Quezon City Jail in Payatas, which is currently operational. In addition, we are supporting the BJMP to expand the capacity of this facility to 150 beds t respond to future needs,” Michel said in a statement released late Friday afternoon.

He added there are doing the utmost to support detention authorities that this facility, and three others that are underway, including the new San Fernando District Jail in Pampanga, Quezon District Jail in Pagbilao, Quezon, both under the supervision of the BJMP and the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa under the Bureau of Corrections with the necessary materials, equipment and infection control training for the staff. (Melo M. Acuña)

DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, BJMP Spokesperson Major Xavier A. Solda and ICRC Staff extending assistance to BJMP and Bureau of Corrections facilities. (Melo M. Acuna and ICRC Photos)

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