Karapatan reiterates call for jail decongestion, raises alarm as CIW stalls release of a political prisoner

With the worsening threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, human rights group Karapatan reiterates its call for the release of all political prisoners, especially those at high risk of contracting the disease and those detainees who should have been freed after serving their prison sentences.

Karapatan raised this anew as a detention facility continues to refuse to release a woman political prisoner despite being able to serve her maximum sentence for her wrongful conviction and submitting all the court documents for her immediate release in March this year.

Since early March, the Correctional Institution for Women (CIW) has not put into effect the release of Miguela Ocampo Peniero, a political prisoner with eight sets of trumped-up cases filed against her. She was arrested on February 4, 2012. Six charges against Peniero have been dismissed, she was wrongfully convicted on two charges in 2017. Upon her appeal, she was later on acquitted from the two charges, while a new case, a bailable one, had been filed against her. She was able to raise and post bail on March 5, 2020, but the CIW failed to release her. Her counsels filed a Habeas Corpus Petition on her behalf which is supposed to be heard on April 16, 2020, but the hearing is cancelled due to the extension of the enhanced community quarantine. In the meantime, Peniero remains at the CIW, in danger of being exposed to possible infection.

“This proves how the government regards the wellbeing of detainees despite the dire situation in prison. Many COVID19-positive detainees have been reported at the Correctional Institution for Women and the rest of the prison population lack vitamins, food supplements, and nutricious food, but they continue to refuse to allow those who deserve to be released,” said Karapatan deputy secretary general Roneo Clamor.

According to the Karapatan officer, the Duterte regime should rethink its priorities and that it should immediately act on jail decongestion given the increasing number of prisoners who tested positive to the coronavirus disease. As of Tuesday, April 21, at the Correctional Institution for Women, there are 19 inmates and 1 jail personnel who were confirmed positive.

Clamor reminded the government of the need for the compassionate release of prisoners, including political prisoners who should not have been in jail in the first place. “We reiterate our call for the immediate release of prisoners, including political prisoners.”