The European Union, in its commitment to support justice sector reform in the Philippines, welcomed the establishment of Bacolod City and Naga City as a Justice Zone by the Justice Sector Coordinating Council.
The JSCC, jointly headed by the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, named Bacolod City and Naga City as a Justice Zones on the basis of JSCC Joint Resolution No. 05-2019 signed on Aug. 15 at the Principals’ Meeting in Manila.
Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. of the EU Delegation to the Philippines, Thomas Wiersing, retired Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra, and Interior Secretary Eduardo M. Año spearheaded the launch of the newest Justice Zones.
Justice Zones are areas where local justice sector stakeholders as the police, prosecutors, judges, public lawyers, and managers of detentions facilities work together to identify and address crosscutting challenges.
The selection of the two newest Justice Zones reflect the city’s demonstration of converged justice sector reform efforts like jail and court decongestion, the implementation of an electronic court system, peace and order promotion, and efficient public service among others.
These reforms make the two cities ready to institutionalize speedier coordination among justice sector agencies.
The European Union’s Governance in Justice (GOJUST) Programme, which aims to facilitate increased communication, coordination and cooperation in the justice sector in the Philippines, aids in the development and creation of justice zones.
To do this, GOJUST backs the JSCC at the national level and the rollout of the Justice Zone concept at the local level.
Bacolod and Naga are the fifth and sixth Justice Zone cities in the Philippines, respectively. The Philippines’ first Justice Zone was launched in Quezon City in 2014, with others in Cebu, Davao, Angeles, and Bacolod cities.
“The establishment of the newest Justice Zones demonstrates how the justice sector in different parts of the country is committed to accelerating much-needed reforms. With Justice Zones across the country emerging fast, we hope that they can be a springboard for a more efficient justice system throughout the country,” said Wiersing.
“These achievements would not have been possible without the collective leadership and commitments of the Supreme Court, the DOJ and the DILG,” he added.
Through an agreed structure and a two-way communication with the JSCC, piloting of new activities can take place within the Justice Zone.
During the work planning of the Naga Justice Zone, stakeholders have committed to work together to strengthen communication, coordination, and cooperation within and among criminal justice sector agencies.
Stakeholders also agreed to maximize the newly approved guidelines on plea bargaining to get more drug users into rehabilitation instead of incarceration.