76 BuCor inmates isolated on suspicion of having coronavirus
MANILA, Philippines – As the government continues to stall on a decision regarding a temporary mass release of prisoners amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) reported that 76 inmates of the highly-congested penal colonies have been isolated for suspicion of having the virus.
There are 74 inmates considered as persons under monitoring (PUMs) and two inmates as patients under investigation (PUI), according to Malacañang's weekly report submitted to the Congress Oversight Committee on Monday, April 13.
The report still used the old PUM and PUI classifications. The Department of Health (DOH) has since revised these classifications into either:
"These PUMs and PUIs are being monitored for symptoms and have been isolated from the rest of the prison population in designated quarantine and isolation areas in various BuCor facilities," said Malacañang in its report.
"The BuCor has already coordinated with partner hospitals should there be a need to transport these PUMs and PUIs for medical treatment," said the report.
BuCor has 7 facilities nationwide including the New Bilibid Prison which has a congestion rate of 337%.
The report did not elaborate on the exposures of the 76 inmates, but it did say that 80 BuCor personnel were also considered PUIs while one was considered PUM.
The report also did not provide a breakdown of facilities where these inmates and personnel are.
For Bilibid, the report said the BuCor set up "temporary tents" to decongest the national penitentiary and that a "COVID-19 24-hour monitoring center has been established in the NBP Administration Building." (READ: Philippine jails are a COVID-19 time bomb)
Amid mounting calls for the temporary mass release of prisoners as the pandemic threatens Philippine jails, the government has been stalling, although some clusters have made small steps in recent days.
The House justice committee recommended the temporary release of the sick, elderly, and low-risk offenders. The Bureau of Jail and Management Penology (BJMP) made a slight turnaround and agreed, but said a court order is needed.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, speaking for BuCor which is under the Department of Justice, said they had already processed grants of executive clemency to the sick and elderly even before the pandemic.
Guevarra told Rappler on Monday that he would talk to Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta and raise the possibility of convening the Justice Sector Coordinating Council (JSCC), which is composed of the Supreme Court, DOJ, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
In BJMP facilities, 21 have been isolated because of contact with a detainee whose recent death was also suspected of being caused by coronavirus infection. – Rappler.com