MANILA — The European Union has committed over P1.1 billion to support the Philippines' efforts to improve access to justice for all Filipinos.
The EU, in partnership with Manila, launched the second phase of its Justice Sector Reform Programme: Governance in Justice (GOJUST) on Thursday.
The first phase of GOJUST ran from 2016 to 2020.
“We are honored to accompany the justice sector reform efforts with GOJUST II, which has been developed in close partnership with the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice and the Department of Interior and Local Government, and will be our largest investment in this area to date,” said EU Ambassador Luc Véron.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the partnership between EU and Manila "will deliver dividends where it counts most – in making justice, human rights, and the rule of law not only well-entrenched and enduring institutions in Philippine society, but also a felt reality in the everyday life of every Filipino."
“We at the Department of the Interior and Local Government are honored and grateful to work again with the distinguished vanguards of justice in pursuing wider paths of improving access to justice for all Filipinos,” said Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.
The EU delegation to the Philippines said GOJUST will support development of more justice services in the country; contribute to reduction of case backlogs with automation of courts and prosecution offices; support coordination of justice sector agencies at national and local level; and foster research use in design and management of justice sector policies.
"To improve access to justice – with a focus on those most vulnerable, including women, LGBTI, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, and other excluded groups – the program includes a grant mechanism. Funds will be awarded to civil society organizations and law schools with the best initiatives on rights awareness, paralegal training, policy advocacy and direct legal services, and the strengthening of the Barangay Justice System and informal justice providers," it said.
"For example, the program will contribute to combatting violence against women and girls by increasing the barangays’ capacity to issue protection orders as mandated by the law."
Last year, the EU Parliament adopted a resolution on the deteriorating state of human rights and press freedom in the Philippines under the Duterte administration.
The European lawmakers expressed alarm over the "deteriorating level of press freedom in the Philippines" and denounced all forms of threats, harassment and violence directed against human rights advocates, environmental activists, trade unionists and journalists "who seek to expose allegations of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations in the country."
They also called on Filipino authorities to conduct "impartial, transparent, independent and meaningful" investigations on the deaths of a number of activists.