Over 15,000 PDLs released from jail amid COVID-19 pandemic – DILG

Robie de Guzman   •   July 3, 2020   •   839

MANILA, Philippines – More than 15,000 persons deprived of liberty (PDL) have been released from jail facilities as part of the government’s decongestion program in light of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the DILG said that from March 17 to June 22, a total of 15,322 PDLs were released from jail facilities supervised by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

Of this number, 5,910 were from the National Capital Region; 1,557 from CALABARZON; 1,487 from Central Visayas; 1,041 from Central Luzon; 897 from Zamboanga Peninsula; 762 from Northern Mindanao; and the rest are from other regions.

Around 1,312 of these PDLs were released because of the new Supreme Court guidelines issued to decongest the jails.

Majority of these released inmates are elderly and those who committed light or bailable offenses, the DILG said.

“All of these PDLs were released by authority of the courts with some released in accordance with new guidelines issued by the Supreme Court because of the pandemic,” DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said.

“Ang paglaya ng libo-libong PDLs ay patunay na hindi sila nakakaligtaan at hindi pinapabayaan. Patunay rin itong gumagana ang justice system sa bansa kahit pa man may pandemya,” he added.

Año issued the statement in response to the claim of leftist groups that the government is not doing enough to decongest the jails.

The DILG chief also said that the BJMP established COVID-19 isolation centers with medical staff in the regions despite budgetary and personnel limitations. These isolation facilities were put up with the support from the Department of Health, local government units.

Six Ligtas COVID Centers with 918-bed capacity are established in strategic areas, particularly in Quezon City, San Fernando City, Cebu City, Mandaue City, Pagbilao in Quezon province, and Zamboanga City, Año said.

He added that the bureau also intensified its triaging process, provision of more focused medical care to patients, conduct of daily disinfection of jails, targeted and expanded testing, and massive health education campaigns inside jails.

“These are on top of the usual precautionary measures such as wearing of face mask, thermal scanning, use of foot baths, hand washing, and maintaining good hygiene,” he said.

“Kahit pa maraming responsibilidad ang ipinagkakatiwala sa DILG ngayong COVID-19 crisis ay hindi isinasantabi ng Kagawaran at ng BJMP ang PDLs. Tinitiyak namin ang kapakanan at kaligtasan nila,” he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic also affected the country’s jails, with a total of 783 confirmed infections among PDLs and 135 among BJMP personnel.

As of Thursday, July 2, 549 PDLs and 90 bureau personnel have recovered from the viral respiratory disease, Año said.

“Tinututukan po namin ang sitwasyon sa mga BJMP jail sa buong bansa at hindi namin pinapabayaan ang mga COVID-19 positive cases. Sa katunayan, marami na ang gumaling at hindi kami bibitaw hanggang bawat isa sa kanila ay maka-recover na,” he said.

The BJMP also expanded the electronic dalaw (e-Dalaw) program in relation to the temporary suspension of visitation in all jail facilities amid the public health crisis.


COVID-19 variant Omicron not yet detected in Philippines – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   December 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Newly-discovered COVID-19 variant Omicron has not yet been detected in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) said following reports about travelers from South Africa who are being quarantined in Negros Occidental.

“We are getting details on these travellers, we will provide info as soon. Just to be clear, no detection yet of Omicron, we are still processing next batch of whole genome sequences,” DOH Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a statement.

The three foreign nationals arrived in Negros Occidental last November 26.

They are currently being quarantined in Manapla, Calatrava, and La Carlota City.

Local authorities said the foreign travelers arrived in the country on November 25 before the national government placed South Africa under the Red List due to the Omicron variant.

They have also been issued with Safe, Swift, and Smart Passage (S-Pass) in Makati and have passed the approval of the Bureau of Quarantine in Manila.

The provincial government said the three are fully vaccinated and tested negative based on their RT-PCR test results. They will undergo re-swabbing while under quarantine.

Local officials have assured the public that the travelers are being monitored and that they will continue to intensify their measures against COVID-19.

PH administers over 5 million jabs in first 2 days of nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive

Robie de Guzman   •   December 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – More than 5 million individuals have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the first two days of the government’s three-day vaccination campaign, an official from the Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday.

“Ang running total natin ay 5,000,353,” DOH Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said when asked for an update on the output of the nationwide vaccination drive, dubbed as “Bayanihan, Bakunahan” program.

The campaign, which started on Monday, aims to inoculate at least nine million Filipinos until Wednesday.

“We are still hopeful na ma-meet natin iyong 9 million target. But just in case we will be unable to reach it, this record is already high,” Cabotaje said.

On the first day of the campaign, authorities were able to administer a total of 2,708,018 vaccine doses while 2,292,335 jabs were given on the second day as of 6 a.m.

Cabotaje said this number is expected to increase as more data come in.

“May nagsasabi na nakatulong ang holiday (Nov. 30) kasi they were able to go to the vaccination sites. Pero may mga feedback din na they worked because it was double-pay,” she said when asked about output on Tuesday, which was a regular holiday for Bonifacio Day.

“And there were some problems because they were not accommodated during the vaccination time. May mga bakuna centers na nagsara nang mas maaga,” she added.

The National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 earlier said the vaccination drive from November 29 to December 1 will only be the first leg of the program, which is focused on scaling up the inoculation rate of local government units for the first vaccine dose by covering up to 70% of their target populations.

Another round of nationwide vaccinations will be held from December 15 to 17, which will focus on ramping up the number of fully vaccinated individuals to achieve the government’s target of fully vaccinating at least 54 million Filipinos by year-end.

The Philippines rolled out its vaccination drive against COVID-19 last March for priority sectors.

Mandatory use of face shields only when alert level goes up — DILG

Maris Federez   •   December 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The use of face shields will only become mandatory when cases of the coronavirus diseases (COVID-19) Omicron variant is already recorded in the country and the alert level system goes up from Alert Level 2 to Alert Level 3, said Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año.

In his report to President Rodrigo Duterte during the weekly Talk to the Nation aired Tuesday night, Año clarified that the government does not totally disregard the use of face shield which was, in fact, integrated into the country’s alert level system in COVID-19 response.

He said while face shield use is voluntary in areas under Alert Levels 1 to 3, it has remained under the discretion of the local government units under Alert Level 4, and mandatory in areas under Alert Level 5, as stated in the current Alert Level system.

“Hindi naman po natin talaga totally na-discard ‘yung face shield. In-integrate lang po natin doon sa Alert Level System na sa Alert Level 1, 2, 3 ay voluntary po; Alert Level 4, may discretion ang LGU to impose; Alert Level 5, talagang mandatory,” Año said.

The DILG chief further clarified the use of face shields in layman’s terms and likened it to an umbrella.

“Para pong ano siya eh, sa layman’s term, ‘yung face shield po parang payong. ‘Pag malakas ang ulan nagpapayong po tayo; pero ‘pag wala nang ulan, pwedeng itabi lang muna ‘yung payong. Pero ‘pag uulan o kaya nakita natin na maulap, magdadala po ng paying,” he said.

Año stressed that the use of face shields is still well within the government’s policy.

“But, of course, sir, it will change kung may makapasok na Omicron,” he said.

The DILG chief underscored the government’s readiness once the Omicron variant enters the country.

“Now, we have instituted border controls. But our border in the southeast porous, iyon ang dapat bantayan po. Kasi kung mayroong mga pumasok na mga Filipino Muslims from Sabah, from Malaysia or Indonesia at hindi po dumaan sa port or seaport, airport, eh ‘yun po ‘yung talagang kailangang mabantayan,” Año warned.

As the department’s course of action, Año said he has coordinated with the military and has given directives to the police and the coast guard to implement strict and close monitoring in the country’s borders.

“Through the PNP (Philippine National Police), Armed Forces [of the Philippines], [and the Philippine] Coast Guard, maglalabas po kami nang mas mahigpit na mga direktiba para siguradong mabantayan ‘yung mga porous borders natin,” he said. —/mbmf

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