EU Responds To Challenges In PH Jails Due To COVID-19 Pandemic

EU Responds To Challenges In PH Jails Due To COVID-19 Pandemic

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Due to the heightened concern on the plight of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Union’s GOJUST Programme in consultation with the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), will provide detention facilities with multimedia tablets for the eDalaw system; as well as test kits, disinfecting agents and personal protective equipment (PPEs) for inmates and jail personnel.

This initiative further builds on the support being provided by the Programme to establish and expand eDalaw in justice zone areas – Quezon City, Davao City, Cebu City, Angeles City, Bacolod City and Naga City and the rollout of videoconferencing between courts and jails.

“We are pleased to provide assistance to the criminal justice system as they address new challenges resulting from COVID-19, “ said Mr. Thomas Wiersing, Chargé d’affaires a.i. of the EU Delegation to the Philippines. Support to GOJUST is in keeping with the commitment of the European Union to help strengthen the Philippines’ formal justice system through increased efficiency, effectiveness and accountability.

With the Philippines having one of the highest congestion rates in the world for detention facilities, COVID-19 positive cases and fatalities have been registered in several jails.

On April 20, 124 cases or 60% of the 207 confirmed cases nationwide, were reported from the BJMP facility in Cebu City. As of May 3, the Department of Health records at least 249 inmates and 34 jail staff had tested positive for the illness. More tests and protective equipment are therefore needed to contain the spread of infection in jails. Additional test kits and personal protective equipment will help the BJMP identify and treat positive cases immediately.

As a preventive measure against COVID-19, the BJMP prohibited all outsiders in detention facilities but through the eDalaw, it enables inmates to communicate with their families and lawyers through online video calls.

GOJUST is providing multimedia tablets and shall ensure connectivity for jails in justice zone areas. These equipment shall also support the pilot test of the hearing of criminal cases involving PDLs through video conferencing based on Supreme Court Circular No. 90-2020.

The Governance in Justice (GOJUST) Programme is funded by the European Union (EU) with a value of over PHP900M.

GOJUST works primarily with the key justice sector institutions (Supreme Court, Department of Justice and Department of the Interior and Local Government) to 1) strengthen sector coordination and policy making, 2) creating space for reform implementation through decongestion and automation, and 3) generating resources for reform implementation through the improvement of administrative and financial management. The Programme runs from 2016 to June 2020.

Photo Credit: Myrfi Gonzalez/UNOPS

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