MANILA, Philippines - The concept of restorative justice to take the place of the current "rigid, punitive justice" was at the center of discussion in Tuesday morning's opening of the 2-day National Summit on Collaborative Partnership Towards Enhancing the Dignity of Persons Deprived of Liberty.
Keynote speaker Chief Justice Renato Corona, whose message was read by Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez, underscored this ideal and expressed the court's pledge to join the rest of the 5 pillars of the criminal justice system - law enforcement, bar (prosecutors, public defenders), bench (courts), correction system, community - in each step in the restoration of justice for all.
De Lima, for her part, said that the thrust for restorative justice, which she defined as "a theory of justice that emphasizes on repairing the harm caused or revealed by criminal behavior," is a goal and a big challenge down the road.
One of the main obstacles to this goal, she said, was the tendency for each of the 5 pillars of the criminal justice system to work on its own.
"It's like step by step. Pagkatapos ng prosecutor, ipapasa sa korte. Pagkatapos ng korte, ipapasa sa correctional. All of the institutions and actions in the criminal justice system are and should be interdependent. Our roles are interdependent, interconnecting and overlapping," De Lima said in her presentation.
Budgetary constraints for key agencies involved in the criminal justice system, and a lack of awareness at present on what restorative justice is, contribute to the difficulties, De Lima said.
Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice and Philippine Judicial Academy Chancellor Adolfo Azcuna, meantime, said the goal must not only be for the restoration of the offender but the victim and society as well.
"The idea is to restore not just the offender, but the victim and society. To restore. To heal. It's a healing process involving all sectors. All sectors must cooperate in order for this healing process to be successful," Azcuna said.
Need for a new Revised Penal Code
De Lima also bared the need to revisit and come up with a new Revised Penal Code in order to facilitate a speedier dispensation of justice.
The code, instituted in 1930, still contains provisions which are no longer applicable to present day and even crimes that can no longer be legally appreciated, De Lima said.
During her stint at the justice department, pushing for a new Revised Penal Code will be among De Lima's priority legislative agenda.
Marquez agreed with the justice chief regarding the need to revisit the Revised Penal Code.
But since that is a legislative act, for the high court's part, Marquez said the court can revisit the Rules of Court and issue circulars relevant to the speedy resolution of cases.
70% of criminal cases drug-related
Azcuna also bared that 70% of cases pending before the 3,000 trial courts nationwide are criminal in nature, and 30% civil.
Of the 70% criminal cases, more than half are drug-related, Azcuna said, quoting a report from the Supreme Court.
And since drug-related cases are non-bailable, this contributes to congestion in jail facilities, Azcuna said.