Thousands of prisoners freed

July 08, 2020

A total of 43,171 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) have been ordered released by courts all over the country since March of this year.

This was reported by Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez to Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta. 

Marquez's report showed that these inmates, which included children in conflict with the law, have been released from March 17 to July 3, 2020.

They were released either after posting reduced bail, on recognizance, or servino minimum sentence, the report showed. 

Also, the release of the PDLs was expedited through court hearings via video-conferencing that was implemented by the Supreme Court amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

The biggest number of court-ordered release came from the National Capital Region at 8,909 PDLs. This was followed by Region 4 at 7,443.

The SC has authorized some 1,430 courts nationwide to conduct hearings on criminal and civil cases through videoconferencing following the coronavirus outbreak which restricted access to courts. 

Videoconferencing for court hearings was approved by the SC in June last year. It was pilot-tested in Davao City courts. 

On March 16, 2020, Peralta, in response to the “exponential spread of Covid-19 cases in the country,” 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.”