Nationwide round-up (10/15/20)

Group asks Supreme Court to be ‘active, humane’ amid health crisis

A SUPPORT group of family members of political prisoners asked the Supreme Court to approve a legal remedy for release to “save lives of prisoners.” Fides Lim, spokesperson of support group Kapatid, asked the court to approve the remedy known as Writ of Kalayaan that was provided when it deliberated on the petition of 22 political prisoners asking to be released on humanitarian grounds due to the ongoing health crisis. “The Peralta Court provided a remedy with the Writ of Kalayaan to save lives of prisoners. Approve it,” she said in a statement on Thursday. “Don’t be a passive court, be an active, humane court. This is an issue not only about political prisoners but all prisoners who are elderly, very sick, pregnant, nursing mothers. We ask you to release more prisoners,” she added. Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, in his opinion on the case, suggested the measure of Writ of Kalayaan, which will serve as a continuing mandamus to address jail congestion. She said they will pursue the remedy. The political prisoners filed in April the petition seeking for their release. However, the high court in July referred the case to the respective trial courts where their cases are pending as they treated the lawsuit as an application for bail or recognizance. “That judicial intervention we hoped for never happened,” Ms. Lim said. Despite this, she said that they are glad that through the petition, they were “able to put the subhuman condition of Filipino prisoners on the front burner,” noting that the government was pressed to take urgent healthcare measures in detention facilities. “We are glad to have compelled judicial and executive agencies to open the prison doors for a claimed number of 33,000 PDLs (persons deprived of liberty) although there is not a shadow of a political prisoner in these releases,” she said. She also asked the court to “grant relief” to detained activist Reina Mae Nasino “to correct the injustice done to her from the time she was falsely arrested with planted firearms to the time she was separated from her baby and her baby died.” Ms. Nasino was among the 22 political prisoners who filed the petition in April. She was initially allowed by a Manila trial court to attend her daughter’s wake and funeral from Oct. 14-16, but it was reduced to just six hours divided in two days after the jail warden opposed the three-day furlough, citing lack of personnel to accompany her. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Villar has President’s trust despite continued corruption in DPWH

DPWH logo
PUBLIC WORKS and Highways Secretary Mark A. Villar continues to have the trust of President Rodrigo R. Duterte despite the corruption allegations in the agency he heads, the presidential spokesman said on Thursday. “Full trust and confidence po in Secretary Villar because despite the corruption in DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways), he was able to deliver,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, speaking in mixed Filipino and English, said in an online briefing. “It helps,” he added, that the Villar family “has more money than DPWH.” Mr. Villar’s father is businessman and former senator Manuel B. Villar, Jr., the richest Filipino with a net worth of $5.6 billion (about P283.11 billion) based on Forbes Magazine’s 2020 list of world billionaires. Mr. Duterte himself, in a televised briefing late Wednesday, alleged that there is corruption in DPWH. The department has been ranked as the one of the most corrupt in the country by the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission. Mr. Duterte cited contractors and project engineers as among those involved in corruption. Mr. Roque said the President made the statement to highlight the challenges in his remaining term to stop corruption in government, particularly in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and DPWH. He added that it is possible that the President will call for an investigation of DPWH, but focus for now is on cleaning up PhilHealth. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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