The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Wednesday expressed alarm over the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) report that revealed 1,166 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) died inside correctional facilities in 2021, the highest figure in 32 years.

In a statement, the CHR said the numbers depicted the “cruel reality” for PDLs in the Philippines.

“CHR has always maintained that the overcrowding of detention facilities—coupled with poor hygiene and ventilation issues—severely endangers the safety of PDLs and staff alike, even more so when there are imminent threats to their health because of a global pandemic,” it said.

There were 48,501 PDLs in 2021, according to the BuCor report. According to the BuCor, the leading causes of death among PDLs were old age and sickness.

“These untimely deaths may likely rob PDLs of due process and even halt the progress of justice for their victims. Such circumstances affect the justice system at large,” the CHR said.

BuCor officer in charge General Gregorio Catapang Jr. had said they would review their data to determine Covid-19-related deaths.

The CHR urged the government to prioritize and expedite the decongestion of correctional facilities and consider the use of non-custodial alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent, non-serious offenders to prevent overcrowding in facilities.

As of September 2022, there have already been more than 700 PDLs who have died in custody. John Ezekiel J. Hirro