DoJ approves simplified parole, clemency procedures


THE DEPARTMENT of Justice (DoJ) has approved the resolution of the Board of Pardons and Parole simplifying the application procedures for parole and executive clemency. DoJ Undersecretary Markk L. Perete said the resolution waives most of the documentary requirements for applications, along with the Court Certifications of No Pending Case and No Pending Appeal and a check on the records of the Person Deprived of Liberty (PDL) at the National Bureau of Investigation. The resolution also directs board members to double their caseload for review and deliberation to expedite the processing of applications. The resolution also discards the requirement for those who are granted pardon and parole to report to parole and probation officers while the State of National Emergency is in effect. Those who are qualified for parole and executive clemency are inmates aged 65 years old and above who have served more than five years of their sentence and whose imprisonment is detrimental to their health as recommended by the physician at the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor). Convicts of heinous crimes or illegal drug-related crimes and classified by BuCor as high-risks are excluded from eligibility under the rules. Several groups have called for the release of inmates who are vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Twenty two political prisoners who are among the vulnerable population earlier asked the Supreme Court to allow their release through bail. The Office of the Court Administrator has also reminded the first and second level courts to release those who have served the minimum imposable penalty for the charge against them and those who have no witnesses for their case and their hearing have been postponed twice. So far, 19 inmates and one worker at the Correctional Institution for Women tested positive for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology(BJMP) will be setting up more quarantine facilities within public jails to prevent COVID-19 transmissions. In a briefing Wednesday, BJMP Spokesperson Xavier A. Solda said they have already built isolation facilities in several jails such as in Pampanga and Quezon. A BJMP COVID-19 isolation in the Payatas area in Metro Manila currently houses 40 inmates. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Gillian M. Cortez

BI speeds up deportation process to decongest holding facility

BUREAU of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Jaime H. Morente has ordered the agency’s legal division and other offices to expedite the resolution of deportation cases to decongest the holding facility for foreigners near the Philippine capital to avoid a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. Mr. Morente said overcrowding increases the risk of infection among inmates and guards. “We don’t want COVID-19 transmissions to happen in our facility,” Mr. Morente said, “We will work double time to deport aliens, especially for wards that are considered health risks.” BI spokesperson Dana Krizia M. Sandoval said there are currently 418 held at the facility designed for 140. Ms. Sandoval, however, said the compound has big open spaces, allowing inmates to freely move within the compound. Mr. Morente also said they might consider granting bail and release to foreigners who cannot be deported yet due to pending cases. Three pregnant inmates were identified as high-risk, and two of them were released on bail while the other has been deported. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Gov’t streamlines releasing of confiscated goods

GOVERNMENT agencies have approved a circular that will speed up the release of confiscated goods, which is particularly crucial for medical supply needed as the country battles the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, an official from the Department of Justice (DoJ) said. DoJ Undersecretary Markk L. Perete said the circular is based on the provisions of Republic Act (RA) No. 7581 or the Price Act and RA No. 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act. “More than reminding prosecutors to rely on the two laws, it provides the basis for inter-agency coordination and sets out the procedure for the transfer of custody of the goods,” he told reporters in a mobile-phone message. The signatories of the inter-agency circular are the DoJ, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Bureau of Customs (BoC), Department of Health, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and Department of Agriculture. “It also reiterates the requirement under both laws for the inventory of the goods to be transferred, seized, forfeited, and disposed of,” he added. The National Bureau of Investigation on April 17 said it seized medical supplies worth P41.7 million following its operations against profiteering, hoarding, and overpricing. The DoJ spokesperson said procedure requires confiscated goods to be turned over to the DTI or BoC, depending on the basis for confiscation, and that they will conduct the seizure proceedings. Mr. Perete said the goods are either forfeited in favor of the government or disposed of according to the Price Act or Customs Law. For disposition, the government will be given preference. “Once the goods are forfeited or disposed to the government, these will be distributed to hospitals after confirmation with the Food and Drug Administration that the goods are safe to use,” he said. He further explained that the confiscated goods should have been used as evidence in prosecution of the offense. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Duterte orders agencies to issue guidelines on interruptions

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has ordered all government agencies to release their respective guidelines on interruption periods for transactions or proceeding cancellations amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis. The Palace on Wednesday released Administrative Order No. 30 directing all government officers to come up with rules on the interruption of periods for the filing of documents, payment of taxes, charges and other fees and also on cancellations of proceedings during the period of the enhanced community quarantine. Government agencies who have moved the timelines of any benefit grants, suspended deadlines for any money obligations, and issued acceptable justifications for litigants to comply with reglementary period for legal proceedings are also required to come up with guidelines. “The foregoing directive shall apply only in relation to areas where community quarantine was declared,” the AO said. — Gillian M. Cortez

Food pass covers a maximum of three persons inside vehicle — DA

AGRICULTURE Secretary William D. Dar said a maximum of three personnel are allowed to be on board vehicles that have been issued a pass to carry basic food commodities such as fresh produce and farm inputs. Food transport vehicles must only be occupied by a driver and two helpers, based on the latest guidelines from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID). “The IATF decided to limit the number of passengers allowed to join the delivery and reduce the possibility of contracting the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus,” Mr. Dar said. “We want unhampered movement of agricultural products to ensure food supply to residents in the metro cities, but we also want to ensure that Filipinos remain healthy,” he added. Since the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon and similar policies enforced by other local governments, free movement of agricultural cargoes was streamlined by the issuance of “Food Passes” from the Department of Agriculture. “The Food Pass serves as a stamp which allows the smooth mobility of farm produce and other agri-fishery products, including farm inputs and implements, thereby benefiting farmers and consumers alike,” Mr. Dar said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave