MANILA, Philippines — A joint initiative between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is being developed to reduce prison overcrowding and strengthen the nation’s judicial system.
At a press conference on Thursday, DOJ Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said that after consulting with other lawyers about the state of the Philippine justice system, he had concluded that enforcement and persecution did not appear to work well together.
He also mentioned that the conviction rate in the country is less than 25 percent for criminal charges that have been filed in court, which includes plea bargaining, “which means we are not getting a passing rate.”
“This not a standard that we can live within the next few years. We have to change this drastically.”DOJ Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla
DILG Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. also stated that the initiative would involve reevaluating what is happening on the ground, especially regarding what law enforcement officials can do. He further mentioned the importance of investigations in every case; thus, “police investigators need to be well-versed in criminal law.”
According to official statistics cited by Abalos, just 123 of the 22,774 police investigators in the country are law graduates.
Furthermore, the DILG Secretary has acknowledged the absence of witnesses, which led to the dismissal of drug-related charges. He also disclosed that of the 291,393 filed criminal drug charges, 5,753 were dismissed while 223,579 are pending.
Abalos further stated that local government units will be urged to assign one person to work on this area and collaborate with the DOJ. The departments are also working toward integrating digital technology into the country’s judicial system.
To guarantee the smooth flow of information across the DOJ, from prosecution to correction, Remulla has indicated he has already recommended someone to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to serve as assistant secretary for digital infrastructure.
Additionally, the DOJ head underlined the significance of digital records for the Board of Pardons and Parole and the Parole and Probation Administration to expedite their processes for thousands of inmates.
When asked about jail overcrowding, Abalos said there was a substantial drop from 612 percent in 2017 to 387 percent as of June 2022. However, he emphasized the need for more facilities, which might be realized through LGU contributions of the site or long-term leases.
Allan Iral, head of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, has stated that the issue may be resolved by enhancing the plea bargaining process, speeding hearings, and repairing existing facilities.