Solicitor General Jose Calida has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss the petition which sought the temporary release of 22 communist members from prison due to the 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19).
“The petitioners, who claim to be political prisoners, are under detention for non-bailable offenses,” read the comment filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).
“To grant this petition would result in grave injustice not only to the People of the Philippines but also to the surviving relatives of the petitioners’ victims who are still waiting for justice to be finally served,” it added.
If the petitioners are concerned for the persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) who are vulnerable to COVID-19, the OSG believes that the procedures issued by the SC in decongesting prisons and the measure being implement by the government in prisons are enough to address the situation.
The OSG reminded the high court that the Rules of Court does not allow bail to persons “charged with a capital offense, or an offense punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, shall be admitted to bail when evidence of guilt is strong, regardless of the state of the criminal prosecution.”
“Similarly, Section 13, Article III of the 1987 Constitution explicitly states that those charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua when evidence of guilt is strong, are not entitled to bail before conviction. In other words, bail shall be denied when the evidence of guilt for offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua is strong,” it cited.
The OSG said the petitioners cannot use as basis the SC ruling which granted bail to former senator Juan Ponce Enrile for the non-bailable plunder offense.
The OSC cited the SC granted bail to Enrile for his fragile state of health and for not being a flight risk considering his social standing as former senator and his his surrender to authorities.
“The petitioners, who are all high-ranking leaders of the NPA (New People’s Army), cannot be considered as non-flight risks. Although some of them may be of advanced age and in fragile state of health, their appearance before the court when so ordered or directed is highly unlikely,” the OSG stressed.
The OSG also disagreed with the petitioners who cited that many countries have released numerous prisoners due to the COVID-19 threat.
“The Philippine government is not expected to conform to the manner of releasing prisoners being adopted by other countries,” it stated.