DILG, DOJ say to work together to improve conviction rates, decongest jails

Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 21 2022 08:10 PM

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Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin "Boying" Remulla and Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos, Jr. a the Joint Press Conference of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) on July 21, 2022 at Camp Crame, Quezon City. Photo from DILG Philippines' Facebook page.

MANILA — The Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Interior and Local Government (DILG) vowed Thursday to work together to pursue an efficient conviction rate in cases filed by the police, as well as the decongestion of jail facilities across the country.

“It is important that our police investigators are well-versed in criminal law. Each criminal act has its own elements and for that, each one of the investigators must know these elements very well," DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos said in a joint press conference with Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin "Boying" Remulla in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Abalos said he will push for the retraining of police investigators, including handling evidence and processing of crime scenes.
 
While the Philippine National Police has 22,774 investigators, only 123 of them are law graduates or law degree holders, the DILG chief said.

Abalos noted that from 2018, police investigators have filed 298,664 complaints for drug-related cases. But 5,551 of those were dismissed at the prosecutor’s level while 5,753 others were dismissed in courts.

“What is important, I emphasized is not the quantity of cases filed but the quality of cases filed,” he said.

Abalos also scored the issue of jail congestion across the country, although it has eased in the past few years.

From 612 percent in 2017, the country's congestion rate in jails and detention facilities under the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology decreased significantly to 387 percent as of June this year.

"Naging effective po kasi yung ating para-legal support services. Ibig sabihin, yung ating mga BJMP officers diretso na po silang nakikipag-coordinate sa court para sa monitoring ng hearing, para matiyak na miiwasan yung suspension ng schedule ng hearing, at iba pang concerns ng mga PDLs sa kaso nila," BJMP spokesman JSupt. Xavier Solda said in an interview Thursday evening on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo when asked about the improvement of the congestion rate.

"Napakalaking punto rin na nabigyan kami ng P6.5 billion nung panahon ng nakaraang administrasyon para sa pagpapatayo ng mga dagdag na facilities natin, and of course yung coordination natin with the local government units... para sa pagtatayo ng karagdagang selda," he added.

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Solda said there are a total of 477 jails in the country under the BJMP, of which, 337 remain congested.

The DILG affirmed that plans to construct and renovate BJMP jail facilities are underway, as the department aims to make jails "more humane." 

Meanwhile, according to Remulla, the conviction rate for cases filed in court at present is less than 25 percent. This, he noted, is not a "passing rate."

"This is not a standard that we can live with in the next few years. We have to change this drastically," he said.

He said talks within the DOJ are also underway to thresh out issues related to the confusion on the quasi-judicial function of prosecutors, underscoring the importance of police officers and prosecutors working together in pursuing cases.

“When enforcement and prosecution go together, probably we will have a stronger criminal justice system,” said Remulla.

The Justice Secretary announced plans to have a singular, digital system to manage Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDL), as the country is using handwritten carpeta. 

Carpeta refers to handwritten prisoner records routed to offices connected or concerned in processing paroles and probations.

Solda said that records of PDLs in BJMP facilities are already 100 percent computerized.

"Under 'yan ng National Inmate Monitoring System. Ito yung NIMS natin, d'yan naka-encode pagpasok ng PDL yung data niya. Ngayon, meron naman tayong tinatawag na digitization. Ibig sabihin, yung carpeta or yung record ng PDL, ini-scan natin at ini-store natin as digital files. So, nandiyan na rin tayo," he said.

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