MELBOURNE: Persida Rueda-Acosta, chief of the Philippines’ Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), has reported to a meeting of the International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA) here that it was able to win over a million cases that helped decongest jails across the country.
From 2007 to 2014, PAO had attained favorable disposition of 923,341 cases.
The Public Attorney’s Office is composed of 1,556 lawyers attending to more or less 3,000 courts nationwide.
Under Acosta’s leadership that began in 2001, the office has recorded 99,201 acquittals for a grand total of 1,022,542 cases.
Still, the PAO chief said more must be done to improve the lives of prisoners, partly by rendering them quality legal services.
Also, Republic Act (RA) 10592 (Good Conduct Time Allowance) can be retrospectively applied to inspire inmates to reform and change for the better, thus, decongesting jails and other detention facilities faster.
To fit with basic human rights and needs of inmates pursuant to UN standards, Acosta said continuous increase in annual budgets of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) would go a long way in bettering the lot of the incarcerated.
The PAO chief further recommended:
*Separate allocation for hospitalization in tertiary hospital of inmates suffering from serious illnesses and expenses for the burial of casualties inside jails;
*Compliance with protocol in cases of inmates’ morbidity or illness applying the principle of non-discriminatory rights of inmates;
*Relocation and construction of additional buildings for safe and sound shelter of inmates based on a maximum of four inmates per cell policy;
*Strict observance and application of the principles of accountability, empowerment, transparency and good governance among key officials, support staff, warden and jail guards of the BuCor and BJMP;
*Institutionalization of principles of restorative justice, which include rehabilitation and livelihood programs for inmates that may bring about additional income to themselves and their families;
*Adoption of security measures to mitigate and avoid sudden, suspicious, homicidal, suicidal illnesses as well as occurrence of unnatural deaths;
*Strict application of Commission on Audit auditing rules, and regulations with proper validation and inspection regarding fund disbursements for food, supplies, medicines, water, electricity, clothing, facilities, equipment, immediate hospitalization and other basic needs of the inmates that are necessary and incidental for the promotion and protection of their social, psychological, mental and physical well-being;
*Strict and full implementation of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 (RA 9745) and all existing
laws relating to penal and prison improvements to realize an effective jail decongestion;
*Enactment into law of existing bills pending in both Houses of Congress that promote social development within the penal system toward promotion of the human rights of inmates that would ensure fulfillment of their gender-rights, upholding of restorative justice and human development of both inmates and jail personnel and officers; and
*Human rights education (with focus on international standards of treatment of prisoners and of domestic laws) and gender orientation training for all officers and personnel involved in prisons.