VIENNA, AUSTRIA, 26 May 2023 – At the closing day of the 32nd Session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCJPC32), the Philippines and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in the Philippines (UNODC Philippines) co-sponsored the side event on the UN Joint Programme for Human Rights in the Philippines [UNJP]: Emerging Criminal Justice Reforms and Innovations. As co-chairs of the UNJP Steering Committee, Secretary of Justice Jesus Crispin C. Remulla and UN Resident Coordinator to the Philippines Gustavo Gonzaleź led the proceedings and presented the progress and key objectives of the Joint Programme in the country.
In his keynote presentation, SOJ Remulla centered on the reforms and initiatives being undertaken in the context of the cross-cutting five pillars of the criminal justice system, namely: law enforcement, prosecution, courts, corrections, and community. As SOJ Remulla stressed, the Philippine Government departed from the usual institutions-based method of justice administration and has embarked on a sector-based approach – one that is anchored on strong and close coordination among the justice sector institutions, agencies, and actors – to ensure maximum efficiency and prevent miscarriage of justice. Further, this guarantees that human rights approach and mechanisms are embedded in all stages and aspects of the criminal justice system.
Working towards said objective, SOJ Remulla pointed significant initiatives between the law enforcement and prosecution particularly on close coordination and cooperation in case build-up, increase in quantum of proof requirement to prima facie and reasonable certainty of conviction, co-development of a Unified Manual on the Investigation and Prosecution of Illegal Drug Cases. Under this cross-cutting pillars, the UNJP likewise supports the implementation of capacity building on the Minnesota Protocol, strengthening of AO35 mechanisms, and the executive review of the Comprehensive Dangerous Act of 2002.
In terms of the joint efforts under the prosecution and court pillars, SOJ Remulla emphasized on the ongoing collaborative review and revision by the DOJ and the Supreme Court of the Rules on Criminal Procedure as well as of the plea bargaining guidelines for drug cases, including issuance of policies for reduced bail and recognizance in an aim to decongest prisons.
Along this line, SOJ Remulla also underscored innovations and reforms in the corrections pillar, such as early releases of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) and ‘Read Your Way Out’ Project, as well as the promotion of health among the PDLs, especially mothers including their infants and young children.
To ensure a whole-of-nation approach, the Philippine Government and the civil society, through the UNJP, spearheads the development of a unified aftercare approach towards effective rehabilitation and reintegration of former PDLs in the community. As a fundamental step, according to SOJ Remulla, the DOJ correctional agencies and the Department of Interior and Local Government signed and adopted the Memorandum of Agreement on a Unified After-Care Referral/Monitoring System and Program for Former Persons Deprived of Liberty.
In closing, SOJ Remulla asserted DOJ’s commitment to lead the UNJP, together with the UN Resident Coordinator Mr. Gustavo Gonzalez, and to continue collaborations with key implementing agencies of its six Technical Working Groups on crafting criminal justice sector reforms and innovations that will promote and protect human rights of all.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh, Department of Health Assistant Secretary Beverly Lorraine C. Ho, National Police Commission Vice-Chairperson Alberto A. Bernardo, Commission on Human Rights Commissioner Beda Epres, CSO Representative Retired Special Drugs Court Judge Ma. Corazon Gaite-Llanderal, and UN-OHCHR Human Rights and Drug Policy Advisor Zaved Mahmood served as virtual reactors during the side event. In gist, all the reactors expressed positive remarks and welcomed the developments and reforms presented by SOJ Remulla. They also affirmed their agencies’/organizations’ continued commitment to collaborate and work closely with the DOJ and other relevant agencies towards attaining a more effective, efficient, and humane criminal justice system.