Sereno, De Lima, Roxas meet to tackle ways to decongest courts, jails

Top officials of the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Interior and Local Government on Wednesday convened to discuss reforms in the country's justice system that would help decongest Philippine courts and jails.

SC Public Information Office chief and spokesman Theodore Te said Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas led the Justice Sector Coordinating Council (JSCC), the first of such meeting since 2011.

Te said the officials discussed a "wide range of topics affecting the judiciary," including case congestion and prison congestion caused by overstaying detainees.

Te could not immediately give further details of the meeting, saying a joint statement would be released on Thursday.

In a chance interview, however, Roxas said they discussed ways to expedite the resolution of cases of detainees who have already been incarcerated for too long.

"Kami naman sa Philippine National Police at Department of Interior and Local Government ay gagawin namin lahat para malutas o matanggal ang mga balakid na ito para sa mabilisang paglitis o mabilisang pagbigay ng hustisya sa ating mga kababayan," Roxas said.

The Philippine National Police is under the DILG.

Roxas noted that detainees are the ones who suffer the most from the country's snail-paced justice system.

15 detainees

He said he had recently ordered a census of all inmates under the custody of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, which is also under the DILG, and found out that at least 15 detainees who have yet to be convicted have already spent a longer time in jail than their actual sentence should they be convicted.

"Inilapit ko kay chief justice ang situation ng 15 presong ito at agad agaran daw niyang aaksyunan ito," Roxas said.

"Sa aming pananaw ay hindi pa nga na-convict ay sobra na ang panahon na na-detain sila. So baka maaari nang pakawalan ang mga ito," he added.

Roxas blamed the delay in the trial of the 15 detainees to the number of hearing postponements and rescheduling.

He said they are considering to release these 15 inmates "for humanitarian reasons," adding that the government plans to conduct a similar census in the provinces.

Crowded jails

GMA News Online earlier reported that latest available data from the BJMP shows that its jails currently accommodate a total of 72,934 prisoners in the country's 17 regions—68,702 or around 94 percent of them are still "detainees" or have not yet been sentenced.

More local courts are needed to help speed up cases and de-congest the courts. But during the 14th Congress, under the Arroyo administration, four laws were passed creating only 10 additional regional trial courts.

In the succeeding Congress, however, President Benigno Aquino III enacted in 2012 and 2013 a total of 72 laws creating 258 first and second level courts, consisting of regional, metropolitan, and municipal trial courts.

Sereno had earlier lamented the living condition inside Philippine jails.

"For many of these prisoners, they have already accepted that a life in prison—while their cases are pending—is already their alternative lives. This is alarming to me," she said.

She noted how detainees would take turn in sleeping inside their cramp prison cells. "This in itself is condemnable, even before they are sentenced," she said.

The SC, last month, conducted simultaneous hearing and decision-making in the five most populated jail facilities in the country.

Dubbed "Judgment Day," courts in Manila and Quezon City in Metro Manila; Cebu City; Davao City; and Angeles City in Pampanga heard and decided on cases on the spot in an effort to decongest both Philippine court dockets and prison cells.

A total of 172 detainees were ordered released by courts in the five cities, all in one day. There are thousands of others, some jailed for years, still awaiting a decision on their fate. — KBK, GMA News


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Philippine, Vietnamese troops play soccer and sing on disputed island

    By Manuel Mogato MANILA (Reuters) - Vietnamese and Philippine troops played soccer and sang karaoke on a South China Sea island on Wednesday in a sign of the growing security ties between the two Southeast Asian nations most at odds with Beijing over the contested waterway. Cooperation has blossomed between Hanoi and Manila since they shelved decades of enmity over their competing claims in the Spratly archipelago to try to counter China, whose creation of artificial islands in the region …

  • SE Asia Stocks - Fall on renewed U.S. rate hike concerns

    BANGKOK, May 27 (Reuters) - Southeast Asian stock markets tumbled on Wednesday as investors resumed selling on expectations of an interest rate hike in the U.S. sooner rather than later, derailing Philippine ... …

  • Phl, US defense chiefs to meet on sea dispute
    Phl, US defense chiefs to meet on sea dispute

    As US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Regan began its journey to Asian waters amid China’s power flexing in the region, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin would try to hear directly from his US counterpart how far America is willing to go to aid its long-time ally against China’s threatening moves in disputed waters. Gazmin flew to Hawaii last Monday to attend ceremonies for the turnover of leadership of the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) from Admiral Samuel Locklear to Admiral Harry …

  • Water in Angat Dam falls below critical level
    Water in Angat Dam falls below critical level

    The water level of Angat Dam in Bulacan yesterday fell below the 180-meter critical level for irrigation, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said. PAGASA said the dam’s water level further dropped to 179.98 meters as of 6 a.m. yesterday from 180.2 meters on Monday. The priority is the domestic consumption in Metro Manila, according to PAGASA. …

  • PCSO gets P3-B fund for medical aid
    PCSO gets P3-B fund for medical aid

    The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) reported yesterday that an estimated P3-billion charity fund has been allocated by Congress to the agency to provide medical assistance to indigent patients and also give funds to other government offices including the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Crop Insurance Program. …

  • Image of Asia: Tearing down squatters' homes near Manila
    Image of Asia: Tearing down squatters' homes near Manila

    In this photo by Bullit Marquez, a demolition crew begins to tear down a squatters' community at suburban Caloocan city, north of Manila, Philippines. Population growth and the lack of economic opportunities in rural areas have driven millions of Filipinos into the squatters' colonies that dot the sprawling metropolitan area in and around Manila. Most of the land they occupy is privately owned, and clearing the dwellings often results in violence. The landowner had offered about $1,344 in …

  • SE Asia Stocks - Mostly down; Thai shares near 2-week low

    BANGKOK, May 26 (Reuters) - Most sharemarkets in Southeast Asia fell on Tuesday with the Thai index ending at a near two-week low and the Philippines touching a near four-week low after trade data while ... …

  • China breaks ground on lighthouse project in South China Sea

    China hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the building of two lighthouses in the disputed South China Sea, state media said on Tuesday, a move that is likely to escalate tensions in a region already jittery about Beijing's maritime ambitions. China's Ministry of Transport hosted the ceremony for the construction of two multi-functional lighthouses on Huayang Reef and Chigua Reef on the disputed Spratly islands, state news agency Xinhua said, defying calls from the United States and the …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options