Local Roundup: Free the elderly inmates—DOJ

The Department of Justice on Sunday prodded the Bureau of Corrections and the Board of Pardons and Parole to comply with its earlier order to speed up processing the release of elderly and sick prisoners who have been granted executive clemency by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the DOJ had sought their release even before the coronavirus disease pandemic was first reported in December 2019.

Guevarra issued the statement after the petition was filed by a group of prisoners who argued they were vulnerable and at high risk of being infected with the virus.

“Let me tell you that even before the COVID-19 broke out, the DOJ had already directed the Bureau of Corrections and the Board of Pardons and Parole to speed up the release of, and/or grant of executive clemency to old and sickly PDLs [persons deprived of liberty],” Guevarra said, in a text message to reporters.

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

The petitioners earlier asked the Supreme 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.

The BuCor has given assurances the agency is ready to tackle the virus in case it reaches the prison facilities.

The bureau, which suspended visitation rights last month when the whole main island of Luzon came under a lockdown, said it has set up isolation areas for flu cases, distributed disinfectants, face masks, gloves and vitamins to all its personnel.

Subsidizing power needs

Electric cooperatives are working on a program of subsidizing the electricity needs of poor Filipino consumers following the two-week extension of the enhanced community quarantine, National Electrification Administration said during the weekend.

NEA administrator Edgardo Masongsong said the proposed electricity subsidy program, dubbed ‘Pantawid Liwanag,’ targets poor Filipino electricity consumers in the countryside whose primary sources of income and livelihoods have been severely affected by COVID-19.

“To show solidarity in dealing with this crisis, the electric cooperatives are exploring all means to continuously deliver electricity services to their respective consumers, as well as mitigate the cost of electric consumption by accessing funds for the design and implementation of ‘Pantawid Liwanag,’” Masongsong said.

Grocery items distributed

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines started distributing P500 million worth of grocery items on Saturday, in line with its P1-billion assistance to the national government’s COVID-19 relief and response efforts.

“We are very pleased to turn over these relief packs as we hope these will help sustain our partner communities given the extension of the Enhanced Community Quarantine. Distribution in select locations in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao will be made over the next weeks,” NGCP said in statement.

Last March 30, NGCP wrote President Duterte pledging P1 billion to help the national government in its efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Review state assets’

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Sunday called on the government’s economic managers to review state assets that could be sold off immediately to generate funds for COVID-19 crisis and to counter the growing budget deficit due to the pandemic.

“Let us turn this COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity to better utilize government assets. Better utilization of these state assets is long overdue as a national policy,” Drilon said.

“As I said before, the government does not have to look far to raise additional revenues. There are ‘low-hanging fruits’ the government can immediately tap to provide the much-needed resources for our country to survive this pandemic,” he added.

‘Better alive with rashes’

Deputy Speaker and Laguna Rep. Dan Fernandez said Sunday, reacting to an advice from the Department of Health that spraying disinfectants or misting would not prevent the spread of COVID-19, it was better to be alive with rashes than be dead with a flawless skin.

Fernandez told the department to withdraw its claim, adding even China and the US disinfect facilities where Coronavirus-19 was detected but stopped short of saying how the two countries were doing the disinfection.

“People are beginning to learn how to be protective and are learning to defend themselves against this deadly COVID virus, even taking into considerations that spraying or misting of disinfectants might be of help in this fight against this pandemic,” he said.

‘Don’t waste good food’

Lawmakers on Sunday urged the national and local governments to prevent the destruction of much needed nutritious food and at the same time provide needed assistance to vegetable farmers whose livelihood have been adversely affected by the enhanced community quarantine.

Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda and Party-list Rep. Ronnie Ong of the Ang Probinsyano and Sharon Garin of AAMBIS-OWA urged local governments to establish partnerships with small-scale farmers to help prevent food waste, promote the consumption of nutritious meals among families, and ensure steady income for farmers amidst the ongoing Luzon-wide ECQ.

Legarda specifically appealed to the local government of Antique, that she represents in the House of Representatives, to support farmers by purchasing their produce and distributing it “to the poor, hungry and vulnerable sector who need it the most during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Ensuring safety

The Commission on Population and Development has called upon local government units, especially the barangays, to take a more proactive stance in ensuring the safety and protection of older persons during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly those living alone.

POPCOM noted that, with the health crisis, the family should be the first-line provider for the care and well being of its members.

However, elderly and senior citizens who are living alone have become doubly vulnerable with the absence of the usual support system supposedly given by their close kin.

The demographic data of COVID-19 infections, particularly in terms of mortality level, has identified older persons as the most vulnerable segment of the population.

Topics: Department of Justice , Bureau of Corrections , Board of Pardons and Parole
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