COURT Administrator Jose Midas Marquez yesterday disclosed that an additional 4,167 persons deprived of liberty have been released from prison amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
This brought to 22,522 the number of PDLs who gained provisional freedom while most part of the country is under lockdown.
Marquez said the PDLs were either released through bail or recognizance because of the Supreme Court’s implementation of court hearings via videoconferencing.
Two weeks ago, Marquez announced the release of 18,355 PDLs since the Enhanced Community Quarantine was imposed in many cities across the country.
“This was from the time our courts nationwide drastically reduced its operations and after four days were physically closed to all court users and may only be reached through their hotlines and email addresses,” Marquez said.
On March 16, 2020, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, in response to the “exponential spread of Covid-19 cases in the country,” issued A.C. 31-2020, and ordered that “all courts nationwide shall drastically reduce operations” and maintain only the necessary skeleton-staff to immediately act on urgent matters brought before them.
On March 20, 2020, “due to the unabated rise of Covid-19 infection” and “in line with the appeal of the government for the general public to stay home to prevent the further spread of Covid-19,” Peralta ordered that all courts nationwide be physically closed to all court users who may reach them only through their hotlines and email addresses, requiring practically all judges and court personnel to work from home.
“We did not stop there,” Marquez said. “We immediately gave 1,000 of our busiest courts the facility to conduct videoconferencing hearings, again focusing on the concerns of the PDLs. And in two weeks, almost 800 videoconferencing hearings of PDLs were conducted nationwide. And this is the result - more than 18,000 PDLs released.”
“The focus really of Chief Justice Peralta and the Supreme Court,” Marquez said, “is on the PDLs whose cases are still pending in the courts