MANILA - The Philippines' flawed justice system is the "biggest stumbling block" to the country's development, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno said Thursday.
Diokno, chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group, said the alleged sale of good conduct credits for prisoners "reflects a bigger problem with our justice system."
"It’s really the biggest stumbling block to our development. How can we deal with the problem of impunity, how can we stop corruption or even organized crime without an effective justice system? It's impossible. We need to do something about it," he told ANC's Early Edition.
"Our government really has not been giving our justice system the attention it deserves. That’s why many of us have little faith about justice and complain about how long cases take."
Diokno said lawmakers need to revisit the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law and make a separate provision declaring the exclusion of heinous crime convicts, recidivists, and habitual delinquents from benefiting.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the confusion on the implementation of the law arose because the disqualification of “recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes” pertains solely to the grant of time credit for preventive imprisonment, not for the granting of GCTA.
"That’s precisely why crafting a law is important, why from the get-go the law should be very clear. Had there been real clarifications from the start then none of this would have happened," Diokno said.
The human rights lawyer also urged Congress to review penalties of the Revised Penal Code to able to decongest prisons as he said the Philippines has one of the highest congestion rates in the world at 400 percent.
"Something has to be done about the crowding and the condition of our prisons," he said.
"Those for example who are convicted of only one offense, let’s say estafa or physical injuries or those types of offenses. Siguro naman basta nagkaroon ng good conduct sa loob ng prison, and provided they meet the requirements of the law, they should be given credit for good conduct."
Diokno said poor conditions of detention facilities in the country give prisoners "the biggest incentive to get out early."
"That would probably also be a temptation for prison officials to get a benefit of their own," he said.
Diokno, meantime, said the death penalty will "never solve" the problem of the country's justice system.
"The solution is to make sure that those who commit crimes are really convicted and they go to jail. It’s not the severity of the punishment, it’s the certainty that they will be imprisoned, that’s what stops crime," he said.
"Until Congress realized that they can talk about the death penalty forever, it will never solve the problem of our justice system. We want to solve the problem of our justice system then strengthen it."