THE European Union (EU) and the Philippines launches on Wednesday a P540-million (Eur10 million) comprehensive reform program to address the problem of human rights violations, including extra-legal killings and enforced disappearances in the country.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux and other EU member-states envoys are the main guests at the program’s launching at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame. More than 100 participants, among them program experts, senior government officials, implementing agency partners and civil society organizations are also attending the event.
The European Union-Philippine Justice Support Program II (EPJUST-II): Justice for All: Enhancing Accessibility, Fighting Impunity will be implemented with the DILG as lead agency.
The four-year program hopes to help achieve equitable access to an efficient justice system for Filipinos, in particular, the poor, disadvantaged, and vulnerable people by improving the capacity and accountability of the criminal justice system stakeholders in handling cases of extra-legal killings (ELKs) and enforced disappearances (EDs).
Also involved in the program are the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Supreme Court, Commission on Human Rights, Philippine Commission on Women, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and civil society organizations.
Roxas said the government welcomes the support of EU through EPJUST II as it would bolster efforts in strengthening the capacities of law enforcement, the judiciary and prosecution to manage and quickly resolve major cases such as ELKs and EDs.
He added that the program intends to cover 100 municipalities and 1,000 barangays in Metro Manila and the provinces of Abra, Camarines Sur, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Capiz, Leyte, Oriental Mindoro, Western Samar, Lanao del Norte, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Zamboanga del Norte.
These areas were chosen based on certain criteria such as poverty ranking, presence of minorities and indigenous peoples, level of incidence of major human rights violations and identified as conflict-affected area.
The EPJUST II has three major components: Enhancing Accessibility which aims to facilitate people’s access to legal information and assistance and enhance the provision of quicker and fairer judicial services; Fighting Impunity which hopes to make the criminal justice system more efficient in preventing and punishing major crimes in general and extra-legal killings and enforced disappearances in particular through the improvement of the investigation, prosecution and adjudication processes; and Enhancing Transparency and Accountability, which strengthens the tools to measure the justice system’s performance and the mechanism for its regular external assessment.
During the program launch, the PNP will demonstrate the use of investigative kits acquired under EPJUST I during crime scene investigation.
EPJUST II is a follow-up of two previous EU-funded programs—“Access to Justice for the Poor Program”, which focused on improving the administration of the barangay justice system and training the judiciary and community members on human rights, women and gender issues, and EPJUST, which helped strengthen the capacities of the criminal justice system stakeholders to prevent ELKs and EDs, probe and monitor them.