A TOTAL of 117 inmates were granted parole under relaxed rules amid a coronavirus pandemic, according to the Department of Justice (DoJ).

More than 400 more prisoners “deemed possibly eligible for parole” were still waiting for clearance from the National Bureau of Investigation, DoJ said, citing the Board of Pardons and Parole.

The parole board will receive a new batch of applications for evaluation this week, DoJ said.

Justice Undersecretary Markk L. Perete said the inmates would be quarantined first before being released.

The agency last month approved new rules cutting the documentary requirements for parole and clemency applications to three from 16 documents.

Inmates aged 65 years old and above who have served more than five years of their sentence are qualified under the rules. Prisoners convicted of heinous crimes or drug trafficking crimes are ineligible.

Several groups have called for the release of prisoners who could die if they get infected with the novel coronavirus.

The Office of the Court Administrator earlier ordered trial judges to enforce a six-year-old rule allowing the release of prisoners who have served the minimum penalty for their sentences and those who have no witnesses for their case.

The Supreme Court has also issued guidelines for the release of indigent inmates through reduced bail to address jail congestion.

The high court said 9,731 inmates were released from March 17 to April 29 and 4,683 more from April 30 to May 8.

There were 117 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bureau of Corrections facilities — 77 from the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City and 40 from the national penitentiary. Four of them have died.

With 215,000 prisoners nationwide, Philippine jails and prisons are overfilled more than five times their official capacity, making it the most overcrowded prison system in the world, according to the World Prison Brief, a database kept by the Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research at the University of London. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas