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By EDD K. USMAN
(SDN) — THE European Union (EU) has allocated around Php10 million funding to the Philippines justice sector agencies for their response to the impact of Covid-19.
EU drew the money from the GOJUST Programme. GOJUST or Governance in Justice is a result of development cooperation agreed by the EU and the Philippine government.
GOJUST “reflects a shared vision of improved governance including the rule of law. GOJUST helps in strengthening the Philippines’ formal justice system through increased efficiency, effectiveness and accountability. GOJUST ultimately aims to contribute to inclusive growth and poverty reduction in the country.”
EU Delegation to the Philippines Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Thomas Wiersing explained in a statement reaching SDN — Science & Digital News that included in the assistance package is Php3 million worth of 120 multimedia tablets and various kinds of personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies.
The gadgets and the PPEs were turned over to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP). They were provided by the GOJUST Programme to support BJMP’s efforts in addressing the Covid-19 situation in detention facilities.
Aside from the latest assistance, EU also provided other aid such as the Php50 million in relief distributions to vulnerable communities, a top up of Php17 million for the EU-funded program on Enhanced Biosecurity in Southeast Asia aimed at better addressing pandemics, as well as the Php1.1 billion to strengthen the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 response in eight members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The four-year GOJUST Programme is funded with Php900 million by the EU.
Gadgets and PPEs to BJMP
Wiersing cited the significance of the turnover to the BJMP.
“The provision of tablets and personal protective equipment reaffirms the European Union’s commitment to enable the justice sector to address the needs of the court and penitentiary systems during this pandemic.”
EU’s healthcare assistance — PPEs and disinfectants — for the protection of persons deprived of liberty (PDL) and jail personnel from Covid-19 will be distributed by BJMP to different detention centers identified as having a high population and congestion rate.
Some of those known to have the highest number of the justice zone areas include Quezon City, Davao City, Cebu City, Angeles City, Bacolod City, and Naga City.
In relation with the prevention of the spread of Covid-19 virus in detention centers, the BJMP has temporarily prohibited all outsiders from entering the facilities.
In lieu of the physical visit, the BJMP has rolled out the e-Dalaw program to enable PDL to communicate with their families and lawyers using the Internet through video calls to comply with government’s quarantine regulations.
GOJUST’s donation of 120 tablets were meant to back e-Dalaw as well as pilot-test the hearing of criminal cases that involve PDL leveraging video conferencing in selected areas.
Jail Director Allan S. Iral, head of the BJMP, thanked the EU for its support in containing the novel coronavirus in detention facilities.
“The success of our efforts to contain and eradicate COVID-19 in compromised facilities and to prevent it from getting into other jail units depend on the support of partners like the European Union. For this, the BJMP is most thankful,” he said.
“Our men and women in jails will continue working round the clock, strictly implementing health protocols and guidelines to make sure that our personnel and PDL remain protected and safe from the virus.”
It can be recalled that the BJMP has reported 716 cases of Covid-19 infections among the PDL in five regions. A total of 167 patients had recovered.
EU’s GOJUST has partnered and works mainly with the Philippines’ key justice sector institutions, such as the Supreme Court, Department of Justice (DOJ), and Department of 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 September 2020.
Its full description is Justice Sector Reform Programme: GOJUST. (SDN)