THE Philippine government and the European Union have launched “Governance in Justice (GoJust),” a three-year program intended to reform the justice system, which also includes promotion of accountability and steps against impunity for major human rights violations.
The government’s new reform program in the criminal justice system, which is funded by a grant from the European Union and the government of Spain worth about P1 billion, includes a component involving strengthening of human rights institutions in the country.
GoJust, launched at the Manila Hotel on Thursday, aims to strengthen capacity of institutions “to promote accountability and fight impunity for major human rights violations.”
EU Ambassador Franz Jessen explained that GoJust intended to strengthen the rule of law in the Philippines through interventions for legislative, regulatory and procedural reforms in the criminal justice system to be spearheaded by the Supreme Court, Department of Justice and Department of the Interior and Local Government.
“As the Philippines moves towards middle income status, a properly functioning justice system will be essential for the business climate and to ensure the continuity of economic growth,” Jessen said during the program launch.
The program has three other major components, including the strengthening and institutionalization of the justice sector coordinating council composed of agencies under the five pillars of justice.
The other objectives are development of a long-term reform strategy and sector-wide coordination and streamlining of case management system and decongestion of courts and prosecution offices, improvement of administrative and financial management system and promotion of accountability and combating impunity in human rights violations.
In response, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, DoJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and DILG Secretary Ismael Sueno all vowed to support the implementation of the program, which would address perennial issues in judicial, prosecutorial and police agencies like corruption, clogged dockets and delayed resolution.
“I commit that cases in the DoJ will be disposed of devoid of material and political influences,” Aguirre said in his speech.
However, while the GoJust highlights the issue on human rights violations, Sueno slammed Amnesty International and other human rights groups for their criticisms on the war on drugs.
In front of the EU delegation, he branded AI and other groups as “human wrong groups” as he vowed to pursue the proposed project to put stickers on drug-free houses.
For her part, Sereno highlighted the need for sectoral responsibility as it takes collective efforts of all agencies involved to deliver justice.
“If we are really going to succeed in supporting the reforms of the justice sector, we must be willing to say that we are jointly accountable to our people. The judiciary will not fail our people in this regard,” she vowed.