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Political prisoners seek temporary release amid COVID-19 threat

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PHILSTAR

MORE THAN 20 political prisoners who are considered vulnerable and at high risk of being infected with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) asked the Supreme Court to allow their temporary release during the quarantine period based on humanitarian grounds.

The 23 petitioners are elderly, sick, or pregnant prisoners detained in places where COVID-19 precautions such as physical distancing cannot be observed.

In their 62-page petition, they asked the high court to release them, including those who are similarly situated but are not among the petitioners, for “human consideration” while the entire Luzon is on lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

They also asked the court to direct their release on bail, as alternative, and direct the creation of a Prisoner Release Committee to study and implement the release of all prisoners who are at high risk of contracting the disease.

“Petitioners are praying for a fair chance at surviving the devastating impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in spaces that are not blighted with overcrowding and lack of access to hygiene measures and medical care,” the petition read.

The petitioners noted that the court has previously ruled several times to allow bail on humanitarian grounds regardless of the nature of the offense.

“While they are charged with common crimes, the arrest, detention and charges against the petitioners are due to their political beliefs. They are not hardened criminals. They will not evade trial nor flee from the charges,” they said.

They also noted that while humanitarian considerations are not among the grounds for the grant of bail, the court “must exercise equity jurisdiction in the case at bar.” — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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