The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) commends the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) for the release of 416 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) on 20 February 2023.
Of these PDLs qualified for release, 78 were acquitted, nine were granted probation, and 81 received parole, while the remaining served their maximum sentence. Location-wise, 205 came from the New Bilibid Prison, 42 from the Correctional Facility for Women, and the rest from regional detention centers.
CHR acknowledges that this recent action by the BuCor, as well as their plan to release 5,000 more qualified PDLs by June 2023, contributes to the overall decongestion of detention facilities. This effort may also be seen as a positive exercise of the President’s power to grant reprieves, commutations, and pardon under the 1987 Constitution toward upholding the dignity and rights of PDLs.
The Commission has time and again expressed alarm over issues of overcrowding, poor sanitation and ventilation, and lack of healthcare support which has plagued most of the country’s detention centers. By addressing these issues with utmost urgency, BuCor contributes a significant step towards fulfilling the state’s obligation to treat all prisoners with respect for their inherent dignity and value as human beings in line with the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, or the Nelson Mandela Rules.
The Commission further underscores that a humane correctional system which promotes the release of PDLs—especially those who have qualified for clemency, such as the elderly and the sick—bolsters the realisation of citizens’ fundamental right to liberty and due process. The justified order for their release is also in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
To this end, CHR continues to urge the government to review cases of arbitrary arrest or unjust detention due to political reasons. As the country’s independent national human rights institution, CHR stresses that it is the primary obligation of the government to ensure the human rights and well-being of all PDLs regardless of background or history. As part of its decongestion measure, we call on the government to use the principles of due process; presumption of innocence; and the right to a speedy, impartial, and public trial in reviewing cases, including that of former CHR chairperson and senator Leila de Lima and other PDLs awaiting for the wheels of justice to turn judiciously.
To complement BuCor’s efforts, CHR shall also continue to exercise its mandate to visit jails and detention facilities to promote the welfare and humane treatment of the incarcerated and accused in order to promote the values of justice, fairness, and respect for all. ###
 Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the high death rate among persons deprived of liberty. 02 November 2022. https://bit.ly/3TPMNcR
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