SC initiates reforms to decongest jails

By Edu Punay, The Philippine Star

Posted at Nov 03 2012 08:24 AM | Updated as of Nov 03 2012 04:24 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) has initiated reforms to decongest jails all over the country.

This, as the SC committee on decongestion of provincial, city and municipal jails chaired by Associate Justice Roberto Abad came up last Oct. 30 with proposed guidelines on bail and provisional dismissal.

The report, a copy of which was obtained by The STAR, was submitted to the office of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno for approval of the SC. It aims to address jail congestion through the speedy release of detainees.

Under the proposed guidelines, detainees will be released from jail after serving a minimum sentence and will no longer have to serve the maximum sentence as what the current rules provide.

Abad’s committee also recommended that the financial status of the accused be considered in the payment of bail bonds.

It took note of many cases where detainees remain in jail just because they cannot afford to post the bail bond prescribed by local courts.

Lastly, and perhaps the most significant, it also pushed for an administrative order requiring trial courts to finish the trial of criminal cases within one year. This is seen to also address criticisms on the slow pace of judicial resolution of cases in the country.

The speedy promulgation of cases is seen by the committee as a solution to clear the jails of overstaying detainees.

Overcrowded jails have been a serious concern for the SC, especially following reports of contagious diseases easily spreading among detainees.

To address this, the SC created in November 2001 the Task Force Katarungan at Kalayaan, which was tasked to effectively monitor the status of cases and conditions of detainees to make sure they do not overstay in jails.