DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Karapatan criticized Solicitor General (OSG) Jose Calida for opposing the petition filed by 22 elderly and sick political prisoners at the Supreme Court as a form of “double standard of justice” that endangers lives of prisoners amid the coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
The OSG challenge the April 8 petition filed by the Public Interest Law Center and National Union People’s Lawyers asking the SC to release the elderly and ailing political prisoners on humanitarian grounds.
Calida’s office sent their comments to oppose the petition to the High Court on April 24, 2020.
“When Calida and his cohorts at the OSG asserted in their comment that the SC’s bail remedy for Juan Ponce Enrile, chief implementer of Marcos’s martial law, is not applicable to the elderly and sick respondents, in this case, they reiterated the basic concept of the injustice of this administration – that it is partial to its allies, especially for the moneyed and powerful among them, while sick and ailing detained activists cannot be accorded the same,” said Roneo Clamor, Karapatan deputy secretary-general.
He also said that this “double standard of justice (is a) trademark…of the Duterte administration’s “convoluted concept of governance and justice”.
Clamor expressed concern over the political prisoners’ condition. This after reports came out about an “outrageous increase” in the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in detention facilities.
There are more than 240 confirmed coronavirus cases in prisons nationwide with at least one recorded death at the New Bilibid Prisons. Twenty-two of them are in the Bureau of Correction facilities; nine are in the Quezon City Jail, and some 210 are in the Cebu City Jail.
“The government, in its bid to stall the petition seeking the release of prisoners on humanitarian grounds, bragged all of its belated efforts to protect prisoners in jails in the country while negating their concerns and fears inside the congested penal facilities,” Clamor said.
The OSG, in its opposition, said that “there is no reason to release inmates”.
In also asserted that the government “already adopted measures to protect prison facilities from the coronavirus disease”.
The OSG also said that those seeking the release of prisoners on humanitarian grounds is “merely opportunistic legalism to distort established judicial processes.”
Clamor argued that seeking the release of prisoners is not in any way opportunistic.
“It is the just, humane, and rational way forward. In this time…of the pandemic (reaching) detention facilities which authorities claimed to be ‘safe’ for prisoners, jail decongestion and the releases of political prisoners (are) a matter of life and death and that it should be considered at the most immediate time possible,” added Clamor.
He noted that the Supreme Court already took cognizance of the fact that jail decongestion must be addressed through readily available legal remedies.
“To discredit the clamor of political prisoners on the basis of obviously malicious claims and trumped-up cases lodged to persecute them for their advocacies and political beliefs is to discredit the fears and concerns of all prisoners whose lives are now at risk because of the lethal and fast-spreading disease,” Clamor also said.
The human rights advocate reminded the Duterte government that decongesting prison facilities is the “most humane way (to go)”.
Clamor asked the OSG to “stop bragging about the government’s belated and inadequate efforts” as the increasing number in cases in jails is already proof that these have failed.
“Time is of the essence as jails are now considered ticking time-bombs. Release the political prisoners now,” Clamor said.