SC refers petition for release of detainees amid COVID-19 pandemic to RTCs

(Eagle News)–The Supreme Court has ordered the regional trial courts  to conduct proceedings for the possible release of inmates who sought for their  temporary liberty on humanitarian grounds amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In giving the order, the High Court acted on the urgent petition filed by  Dionisio Almonte, Ireneo Atadero Jr., Alexander Ramonita Birondo, Winona Marie Birondo, Rey Claro Casambre, Ferdinand Castillo, Francisco Fernandez Jr., Renante Gamara, Vicente Ladlad, and several others, treating such as an application for bail or recognizance as well as as motions for other practicable and suitable confinement arrangements, the SC public information office said.

According to the PIO, the High Court noted that the petitioners have been charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua, and as such were not entitled to bail as a matter of right under the Constitution.

In order for the petitioners to be granted bail, the SC  said it is imperative then for the  hearings to be conducted by the RTC, where the criminal cases are lodged, and for the RTC to receive evidence in order to weigh the strength of the prosecution’s evidence as to the guilt of the petitioners.

The SC also reiterated the doctrine that it was not the proper venue to ventilate factual questions especially if they are presented for adjudication on the first instance.

No copy of the decision has been made available so far.

In calling for their release, the inmates said they were elderly, sick and pregnant, and as such were exposed to the danger of contracting COVID-19.