MORE THAN 58,625 inmates have been released since President Rodrigo R. Duterte locked down the entire Luzon island in mid-March to contain a coronavirus pandemic, according to Supreme Court data.
Among the regions with the highest prisoner releases were Metro Manila with 12,726, followed by the Calabarzon region with 10,354, Central Luzon with 7,855 and Central Visayas with 6,970.
The Office of the Court Administrator also allowed 882 trial courts to pilot-test and conduct video conferencing for hearings.
A total of 47,676 videoconferencing hearings were held from May 4 to Aug. 7 with an 85% success rate.
The Supreme Court has issued rules to address jail congestion to stop the spread of the coronavirus, including the release of indigent inmates through reduced bail. It also allowed courts to hold virtual hearings.
The Judiciary also told trial court judges to release prisoners who had served the minimum penalty for their sentences and those who had no witnesses for their cases.
The Department of Justice likewise approved the rules relaxing the requirements for the grant of parole and executive clemency to prisoners.
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 (WPB).
As of 2017, it had 933 jails — seven national prisons and 926 city, district, municipal and provincial jails, which are not enough to contain inmates, three-quarters of whom were at the pre-trial stage, WPB said on its website. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas