It would only take a matter of time before the corona virus disease or COVID-19 enter Philippine jails. “All prisons and jails should anticipate that the coronavirus will enter a facility, and jails need to have proper plans for monitoring and treating anyone who has symptoms”, according to a Healthcare Research Institute in the United States.
The corona virus spreads quickly in closed spaces, like jails and prisons which make the Persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) and Jail officers vulnerable to severe forms of the virus. One way to reduce the impactful spread of the virus is to protect themselves from each other.
Philippine jails are always a jampack.
Currently, the San Mateo Municipal Jail – Male dorm holds 744 PDLs. According to SJO1 Bonayon, they have already provided cautionary measures before the spread of the virus through the practice of wearing of face masks for jail officers and detainees, as well as for visitors. She added that HLAF's provided face masks were of huge help in containing the virus.
Since the spread of the virus and the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine, jail personnel are in a no-in & no-out policy, this means that they are not allowed to go out to see their families, in a straight time to prevent from getting the virus and bring it inside.
Moreover, to relieve from stress and anxiety thinking about their families, the jail officers together with the PDLs practice daily activities such as 30-minute morning exercises, watch Bible-based films and mass, and play board games among others. They are also among jails who practice and implement the E-dalaw program which allow detainees to talk to their relatives and loved ones via online video calls.
The conducted Online Welfare and Legal Mission of HLAF in San Mateo Municipal Jail also seemed to make them relaxed since going outside is prohibited for jail personnel. It made them of ease because they knew that there are people and organizations willing to lend time and talk about how they feel.
Bonayon said that the least she can do today is to look after the PDL’s welfare and well-being amidst the health crisis. She believes that the spread will end soon, and everything will go back to normal. “I am thankful to HLAF’s initiatives in protecting the BJMP and the PDLs, especially in these challenging times. HLAF has always lent their time to check our needs and situations. We hope that HLAF will never forsake us in these situations. We thank you again for your continued support”, she added.
The San Mateo Municipal Jail is currently in need of hygiene kits which include: bath and laundry soaps, toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, and face towels due to limited stocks brought by the heath crisis.