CHR reminds gov’t of prisoners’ right to health, urges vaccination vs COVID-19

This photo, taken on March 27, 2020 shows prison inmates sleeping and gesturing in cramped conditions in the crowded courtyard of the Quezon City jail. Guards and inmates at a notoriously overcrowded Philippine jail tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus, officials said on April 17, sparking urgent calls for the release of some prisoners. (Photo by MARIA TAN / AFP)

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Sunday urged the government to give attention to the health of prisoners, particularly their need for COVID-19 vaccination, especially now with detention facilities suffering from congestion.

“As the country’s independent national human rights institution, CHR stresses the importance and obligation of the government to treat all PDLs [persons deprived of liberty] as humans with inherent dignity and rights, including their right to health,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement.


As of August, only 474 senior citizens out of a total 48,000 inmates in seven prisons under the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) nationwide have been vaccinated against COVID-19, De Guia said, citing data from the BuCor.

The CHR also cited the Nelson Mandela Rules, named in honor of the late president of South Africa, saying: “All PDLs must enjoy health care with similar standards to those available in the community and should have access to necessary health-care services free of charge and without discrimination.”


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As of Aug. 25, the government has administered

31,433,450 doses of COVID-19 vaccines

. This means the number of vaccinated prisoners accounts for only 0.002% of the total vaccine doses administered.

“We caution that neglect of this duty may result in cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment, which goes against the country’s commitment to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UN CAT) and its Optional Protocol (OPCAT),” De Guia said.

According to the CHR, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also stresses that governments have an obligation to provide vaccines for groups considered as “high risk” — and this includes people under detention.

“In line with our #Vaccine4All campaign, CHR shall continue to call for greater and equitable access to vaccines, especially for weak, marginalized, and vulnerable populations, guided by human right standards,” De Guia said.

As of Aug. 29, the Philippines has recorded a total of

18,528 COVID-19 cases

, with 143,221 active cases, 177,693 recoveries, and 33,109 deaths.


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