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CJ vows fast release of cleared PDLs

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Chief Justice (CJ) Alexander G. Gesmundo has assured an expeditious review of appeals in criminal cases and the speedy release of judgments of acquittal to hasten the freedom of qualified prisoners from the country’s penitentiaries.

Gesmundo made the assurance during his visit to the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City last Friday, as the country celebrated the National Correctional Consciousness Week from Oct. 22 to 28.

The country’s top magistrate was accompanied by Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Jose Midas Marquez and Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Karl Miranda who arranged the visit.

They met inmates or persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) who are studying at the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA – Bilibid Extension School (UPHSD-BES).

The CJ lauded UPHSD-BES’ commitment to education as a means of rehabilitation.

“It is inspiring to see your dedication to education as a path towards rehabilitation. I heard that almost 2,000 student-PDLs are currently studying at UPHSD across various levels—grade school, high school, and vocational programs—as part of their journey towards transformation,” he said in addressing the student-PDLs.

“Whether it is freedom or justice that you await, may you continue to find strength, hope, and guidance from the Divine. Keep dedicating yourselves to your studies and embracing this path of rehabilitation as preparation for your return to your families and communities,” Gesmundo said.

He emphasized the importance of his jail visit as an opportunity to personally observe and monitor the conditions of the PDLs as he pointed out that “the justice system does not end within prison walls but extends to rehabilitation until PDLs are able to reintegrate into society.”

Gesmundo admitted that the Supreme Court is aware of the challenges the PDLs are facing, including the deficiency in facilities and space within prison facilities.

He assured that the SC is doing its best to help through its Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations 2022-2027 (SPJI).

Among the initiatives being undertaken are the lowering of bail for indigent persons charged with criminal offenses, expeditious release of qualified PDLs, and other programs aimed at promoting a judiciary that is more efficient, modern, and accessible to the people.

“These include conducting online hearings, streamlining and expediting our systems and processes, and strengthening programs for free legal assistance, which will also benefit PDLs,” Gesmundo said.

During the dialogue with the PDLs and officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), concerns were raised on the “compassionate” interpretation of Republic Act No. 10592, the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law, and the expeditious release of entries of judgment in criminal cases, which can hasten the release of long-staying inmates. Gesmundo assured that the SC will look into the concerns.

GCTA credits for good behavior of a PDL reduces his or her jail term.


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