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MANILA, Philippines – Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Boying Remulla said it was not easy to shift from manual to digital in processing the country’s prisoner records.
Speaking during a press briefing with Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos on Thursday, July 25, Remulla said their program is still work in progress.
“It’s a work in progress. We are pushing the BuCor (Bureau of Corrections) to go faster on this. I have people assigned to really follow up on a daily basis with the work of the BuCor on this matter,” Remulla said.
Despite the delay, the new justice secretary said they already imposed digitization as a requirement.
“Kasi hindi talaga (It’s not really), digital is not a new thing, but for things that have been done for years as manual, siyempre hindi madaling pumasok sa (It’s not easy to introduce) change but we are imposing this already as a requirement.”
In 2020, the DOJ signed a memorandum of agreement with other agencies in the justice sector and attached agencies to digitize the agency’s criminal data system. The DILG and the BJMP are also among the signatories in the agreement.
The portal, named National Justice Information System, would be a single portal that will hold all the data of prisoners and complaints that fall under the jurisdiction of prosecutors. Meanwhile, the prisoners’ data portal is known as Single Carpeta System, which aims to solve the problem on record-keeping of corrections and penology agencies.
In 2021, the justice department announced that it has yet to complete the carpeta system. In fact, corrections official Gabriel Chaclag gave a response last year similar to Remulla’s when asked about the updates on the carpeta: “It’s an ongoing project.”
What are other plans to address jail congestion?
- Talk to the Supreme Court. When asked if the BJMP is compliant in releasing persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), whose jail times have exceeded their maximum penalty, Abalos said they would talk to the Supreme Court. He also said they would hold a meeting with the High Court to address this concern on the part of the judiciary.
- Have better police investigators. Abalos said they also seek to improve the ranks of police investigators, who work and pursue cases until resolved by courts. According to him, only 123 are law graduates among the 22,774 police investigators. Remulla, meanwhile, said they also seek to retrain law enforcers on remedial law, which provides for the enforcement or protection of a right.
- Pardons and parole. Remulla said they would work with the Board of Pardons and Parole to help in decongesting the facilities under the BuCor. The justice secretary added they would ask for assistance from the Public Attorney’s Office’s in working with the board.
Why these efforts are important
- Faster processing of records. Under a unified digital portal, concerned government agencies will be compelled to ensure that qualified prisoners will be released. The system will also ensure that a prisoner who should not be freed will not be released.
- Avoid another mess. During the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) controversy, the BuCor was slammed for its flawed records system, which led to the release of 1,914 heinous crime convicts. A unified and systemic portal can avoid this mess from happening again.
- Comply with COA recommendation. The Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the BJMP for the high rate of jail congestion in the country. With that, COA recommended, among others, reviewing the GCTA process and facilitating the release of qualified PDLs. – Rappler.com