Bangkok, May 11 (EFE).- In the most saturated prison system in the world, shuttered by the Covid-19 pandemic, two political prisoners have died in the Philippines in the last three days, raising the claims for humanitarian releases by relatives of prisoners of conscience.
Peasant leader Joseph Canlas, 59, died Tuesday morning of Covid-19 at the Lingad Memorial regional hospital in San Fernando de Pampanga, in the center of the island of Luzon, after being transferred urgently due to respiratory ailments.
Prison authorities refused to test him for Covid-19 in prison, a diagnosis confirmed in hospital when it was too late, according to Kapatid, an association that represents the relatives and friends of political prisoners in the Philippines.
According to Kapatid, Canlas was arrested by “the Duterte regime” on Mar. 30 with “fabricated accusations” and went on to join the list of more than 600 political prisoners in the Philippines, most of them social and peasant leaders, activists or left-wing militants. More than half have been imprisoned in the almost five years of President Rodrigo Duterte’s mandate.
Kapatid also said in a statement he lamented the death of Maximo Redota, another political prisoner serving a sentence in the Gumaca prison in Quezon province and who died of a stroke on May 9, “without having received the relevant medical attention.”
“Their deaths raises to four the number of political prisoners – and an unknown greater number of prisoners – who have succumbed to the pandemic due to government inaction and appalling prison conditions, despite our urgent request last year to decongest the prisons,” Kapatid spokeswoman Fides Lim said.
With a prison population of about 220,000 inmates, the Philippines has the most congested penitentiary system in the world, which exceeds its capacity by 500 percent. Organizations inside and outside the country have repeatedly asked the government to release prisoners convicted of minor offenses, as well as the elderly and the sick since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Philippine government authorized the release of some 10,000 inmates for humanitarian reasons in May 2020, but the measure only affected those who had less than six months of sentence left, without any political prisoner benefiting from it.
“We held the prison and prison authorities responsible for the tragic death of my client and will take legal action. The necessary measures were not taken to prevent his death. There was no clear policy on health protocols and the inmates were never screened for Covid-19 despite 100 detainees sharing the same quarantine facility in the Angeles prison,” said Luchi Pérez, Canlas’s lawyer. EFE