JSCC launches Bacolod City Justice Zone
THE Justice Sector Coordinating Council (JSCC) launched the Justice Zone project in Bacolod City at the Bacolod Government Center yesterday.
The JSCC, jointly headed by the Supreme Court (SC), Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), named Bacolod City as a Justice Zone on the basis of JSCC Joint Resolution No. 05-2019 signed on August 15, 2019 at the Principal’s meeting in Manila City.
The launching was led by Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano, European Union (EU) Head of Cooperation Enrico Strampelli, and Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia.
Bacolod City is the fifth Justice Zone in the Philippines, with the first being Quezon City, which was launched in 2014, followed by Cebu City in 2018. Other Justice Zone includes Davao and Angeles, which were both launched in the first half of 2019.
Justice Zones are areas where local justice sector agencies such as the police, prosecutors, judges, public attorneys, and managers of detentions facilities showed outstanding coordination in identifying and addressing common challenges.
“In answer to the clamor for justice sector reform in the Philippines, Justice Zones have been established to strengthen the coordination and collaboration of the Justice Sector Coordinating Council principals represented by the DOJ, DILG, the SC and the components of the local justice sectors, the police prosecutors, judges, public attorneys, and managers of our detentions facilities,” Bersamin said.
He said through the strengthening of the delivery of the respective services, through coordination among themselves, efficiently and effectively move forward the ends of justice.
“The Philippine Development Plan, which is the country’s medium plan for 2017- 2022, recognizes the JSCC and promotes the establishment of Justice Zones Under Chapter 6 entitled Pursuing Swift and Fair Administration of Justice,” he added.
Bersamin noted Justice Zone is an area or locality where a minimum number of inter-agency coordinated efforts are present. Rendering the area or locality fully complaint based on the rating system established by the JSCC. The minimum number of reforms present for an area or locality to be declared as a justice zone is forty.
“But, I am happy to say that Bacolod gathered scores of 74 out of 92 or 80 percent during the resource mapping exercise conducted jointly by the JSCC’S technical working groups on processes and capacity building,” Bersamin said.
He said the goal of the Justice Zone is to see trial judges and court employees reduce their court dockets and dispense judgment in a timely manner. To see the prosecution service to efficiently resolve criminal complaints involving violations of the Penal Laws, to see the public attorneys to competently assist their clients, to see the police ensure the timely appearance as witnesses of their investigators and the forensic chemist, evidence custodians and arresting officers, and to see the jail officers to effectively manage their detention facilities in the context of reformation of all persons deprived of liberty (PDL).
“As you all know by now, I am on my last few weeks as Chief Justice of the Philippines. I have therefore started looking back at the less than one year I’ve spent in this office. And have been openly wondering if I have done enough reforms, if I’ve met enough people, and I’ve touched enough lives. This is my main motivation when I requested the JSCC core secretariat and relevant technical working group to look for two more Justice Zones that we can launch before my retirement, and that’s Bacolod and Naga cities,” he added.
Guevarra said the delivery of justice is a complex and difficult challenge beyond the power of a single institution or person to address.
He said the events these past two weeks attest to this.
Guverra cited the case of a former local government official convicted of having raped a college student from the university, and maybe among the 11,000 PDLS who could potentially benefit from retroactive application.
“At this very moment, as we speak, a joint review committee formed by the DOJ and the DILG has convened in Manila to study the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s directive to retroactively apply the Republic Act 10592,” Guevarra said.
He said its works will correct any possible flaws in, and recommend possible amendments to, the existing Implementing Rules and Regulations, and establish the institutional checks and balances to ensure the expeditious and correct implementation of the law.
“This joint review committee is mandated to, among others, spell out in the IRR the exclusions intended by the law,” he added.
For his part, Año said he also recognized the EU for partnering with the Justice Sector Coordinating Council (JSCC) in advancing the country’s justice system through the Gojust Programme.
“I’m pleased with the developments taking place in our justice system and would like to commend the initiatives of SC, DOJ, and the four partner agency, the EU, for taking great plains to unclog our courts as well as our detention facilities,” he said.
He added : “with the five Justice Zones already established, I’m sure that we will be able to attain
the 14 Justice Zones we target to launch nationwide by 2022. In fact, we are even looking into assisting impoverished and conflictaffected areas improve their justice system and stop the prevalence of injustice so that they too can become Justice Zones, because these are places where many cases of injustice prevails.”
The EU also welcomed the establishment of Bacolod City as a Justice Zone by the JSCC.
Strampelli said the establishment of Bacolod City as the newest Justice Zone shows that the Philippines is making strides to bring about much-needed reforms in its justice system.
He said by fostering cooperation between the Justice Sector Coordinating Council at the national level and the Justice Zone at the local level, we look forward to seeing more reforms on local justice coordination nationwide.
“We are also grateful for the collective leadership of Chief Justice Bersamin, Justice Secretary Guevarra and DILG Secretary Año for their commitment to advance this country’s justice reform agenda,” he added.
Leonardia said that Bacolod is very happy for the launching of JSCC’S here.
“We are flattered that we are the fifth of all the cities in the Philippines that have been given this chance to be a Justice Zone. This is all about increasing the pressure efficiency, effectiveness and accountability which should lead to inclusive growth and the poverty reduction,” he said.
He added: “For us in Bacolod, after having focused on economy, growth and culture, this is for us what will complete the picture for growth and we are very thankful that the coordinating council had concluded that compliance wise the stakeholders of Bacolod deserved to be the number five in the Philippines today.”
Leonardia disclosed that when he was in Congress, the very first bill that became a law that he has filed was the creation of the three Regional Trial Courts in Bacolod City.*
THE Justive Sector Coordinating Council (JSCC) launches the Justice Zone project in Bacolod City led by Chief Justice of the Philippines Lucas Bersamin (Center), Department of Justive Secretary Menardo Guevara, Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, European Union to the Philippines Head of Cooperation Enrico Strampelli, and Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia at the Bacolod Government Center yesterday./map