Around 22,000 prisoners in the Philippines have been released to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in the crowded jails across the country, an official said on Wednesday.

This came after the deadly virus infected hundreds of detainees in the prisons across the country.

In a statement, the Department of the Interior and Local Government said a total of 21,858 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) have released since March from 470 jail facilities across the country managed by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology .

“The total 21,858 PDLs released, 15,102 were paralegal releases through bail, plea-bargaining, parole, or probation. At the same time, 6,756 were non-paralegal releases through acquittal or served sentence. Of the persons released, 409 were elderly, 621 were sick, and 24 were pregnant,” said Eduardo M. Ano, secretary of the department.

The secretary said that the government is taking concrete measures to decongest jails such as improving and putting up more jail facilities and fast-tracking the court hearings of PDLs.

“The jail units, Region VII had the highest number of positive cases at 731; followed by Calabarzon at 146; and National Capital Region at 139 while 103 reported from other regions,” Ano said.

As of July 15, 2020, there are only 180 active COVID-19 cases in jail facilities, 126 of whom are inmates, and 54 are jail management personnel. A total of 895 inmates and jail personnel have recovered, while 11 died from the deadly virus, according to the ministry.

The Philippines has so far recorded a total of 70,764 cases, with 1,837 deaths, while 23,281 patients have recovered.

*Writing by Islamuddin Sajid 

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