The European Union through the Governance in Justice Programme has allocated Php 10 million to support justice sector agencies in their response to COVID19.
Mr. Thomas Wiersing, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the European Union Delegation to the Philippines, said that part of this package is the Php 3 million worth of 120 multi-media tablets and different kinds of personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies which are being turned over to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).
These gadgets and equipment are provided by the GOJUST Programme in support of BJMP’s efforts to address the COVID-19 situation in detention facilities.
It also complements other assistance provided by the EU such as PHP 50 million in relief distributions to vulnerable communities, a top up of PHP 17 million for the EU funded program on Enhanced Biosecurity in South East Asia in order to better address pandemics, or the PHP 1.1 billion provided to strengthen the WHO’s COVID-19 response in 8 ASEAN countries.
Turnover to BJMP
During the turnover ceremony at the BJMP, Mr. Wiersing said that “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”.
The PPEs and disinfectants intended to protect persons deprived of liberty (PDL) and jail personnel from COVID-19 exposure shall be distributed to various detention centers identified as having a high population and congestion rate.
The justice zone areas – Quezon City, Davao City, Cebu City, Angeles City, Bacolod City and Naga City – are among those recognized to have the highest numbers.
Furthermore, all outsiders are currently prohibited from entering detention facilities in efforts to address the pandemic. In response to this, the BJMP rolled out the e-Dalaw program to enable PDL to communicate with their families and lawyers through online video calls amid quarantine measures in the country. GOJUST is providing 120 multimedia tablets to support e-Dalaw and to pilot- test the hearing of criminal cases involving PDL through video conferencing in selected areas.
“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,” expressed Jail Director Allan S Iral, the Chief, BJMP.
“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,” Iral added.
The BJMP reports 716 COVID-19 cases among persons deprived of liberty in five regions with 167 recoveries.
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 September 2020.
Criselle Capistrano, GOJUST Communications Officer