More than 15,000 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) have been freed from March 17 to June 22 in an effort to decongest jail facilities amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) crisis.

The 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,” Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said in a statement.

Of the 15,322 released PDLs, 1,312 were granted freedom under the new Supreme Court guidelines issued to decongest the jails, which include:

  • Administrative Circular (AC) No. 33–2020 supplemented by the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) Circular No. 89–2020, which facilitated release orders through electronic filing and transmission;
  • OCA Circular No. 91–2020 which confirmed the guidelines on the release of qualified PDLs through self-recognizance and provisional dismissal; and
  • AC No. 37–2020 permitting the pilot testing of virtual hearings of urgent criminal cases of PDLs.

The release of PDLs, which was processed starting March 17, was undertaken in coordination with the Public Attorney’s Office and benefited elderly and PDLs with light or bailable offenses.

The number of PDLs freed from jail facilities of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology were broken down as follows: 5,910 from the National Capital Region; 1,557 from Calabarzon; 1,041 from Central Luzon; 1,487 from Central Visayas; 897 from Zamboanga Peninsula; 762 from Northern Mindanao; and the rest from other regions. Jojo Mangahis