CHIEF Justice Alexander Gesmundo expressed belief that the implementation of the Writ of Kalayaan would help address the poor living condition of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) in various prison and jail facilities in the country.
He issued the remark following his series of visits in prison and jail facilities in the country to personally see the conditions and listen to the concerns of PDLs as part of this year’s observance of the 28th National Correctional Consciousness Week.
Last Sunday, the Chief Magistrate visited PDLs at the Pasay City Jail together with SC Associate Justice Jose Midas Marquez and other government officials among whom are Department of Justice Undersecretary Raul Vasquez, Pasay City Vice Mayor Waldetrudes del Rosario, Assistant Court Administrator Maria Regina Adoracion Filomena Ignacio, Deputy Clerk of Court and chief technology officer Atty. Jed Sherwin Uy and lawyer Antonio Caesar Manila of the Office of the Chief Justice.
Prior to his visit to the Pasay City Jail, CJ Gesmundo visited the National Bilibid Prison-Medium Security Camp last Friday, October 27, to address PDLs currently studying at the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA-Bilibid Extension School (UPHSD-BES).
In both visits, the CJ Gesmundo stressed the importance of conducting jail visits to be able to determine the actual situation of PDLs and the detention facilities in order to formulate policies that would enhance jail management and ensure the humane treatment of prisoners.
CJ Gesmundo also disclosed the Court’s plan to hold a National Jail Decongestion Summit in coordination with the Justice Sector Coordinating Council (JSCC) to discuss deficiency in facilities and space within the prisons.
“Here, the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government shall collaborate to identify the root causes of prolonged detention in jail, which contribute to prison overcrowding,” the CJ said.
“We aim to establish new policies and initiatives that shall expedite the processing of criminal cases and alleviate jail congestion,” he added.
One of these initiatives, according to CJ Gesmundo, is the impending promulgation of the Writ of Kalayaan.
The writ will be a continuing mandamus for those in charge of the custody of the PDLs to comply with the court-sanctioned plan to rectify the substandard conditions of prison facilities within a specified timetable.
If not met, a Writ of Kalayaan will be issued for the release of the PDL, either through bail, recognizance or probation until the facility has been brought to a humane level.
“Perhaps the promulgation of the Writ of Kalayaan can address the issue of jail congestion in the detention facilities,” the CJ said.
Aside from this, the CJ Gesmundo shared the Court is spearheading many other initiatives for the benefit of PDLs, such as recommending lower bail amounts for indigent accused individuals and expediting the release of qualified PDLs.
The Court has also ordered trial courts to prioritize the disposition of criminal cases.
It has also invested in various other projects and programs to promote a judiciary that is more efficient, modern, and accessible to the people, which include conducting online hearings, streamlining and expediting systems and processes, and strengthening programs for free legal assistance.
Earlier, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) through Director General Gregorio Catapang, expressed opposition to the promulgation of the writ, saying that the issue of jail conditions, treatment of PDLs and mode of PDL releases should be left to the discretion of the Legislative and Executive branches of the government.
Catapang added that the problem of congestion is now being addressed by the bureau on the basis of the passage of two laws, namely, RA No. 10575, otherwise known as the Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013, which provides for the modernization, professionalization and restructuring of the BuCor, and RA No. 11928, which provides for the establishment of a separate facility for PDLs convicted of heinous crimes.
The BuCor chief made known his stance in a position paper he signed and submitted to the committee tasked to draft the rules for the Writ of Kalayaan headed by SC Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen.
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