Robin asks the judiciary to uphold inmates’ rights

September 19, 2022 PS Jun M. Sarmiento 321 views

SENATOR Robinhood “Robin” C. Padilla on Monday called on the judiciary branch to uphold the rights of Filipinos – especially the poor ones – who are deprived of liberty due to civil or criminal cases they are facing.

Padilla listed as urgent the following to address the rights of jailed Filipinos, i.e., the use of Filipino in official communications with inmates, so they understand the procedures in the cases they face, address the overcrowding of prisons, and for the judiciary to find ways to speed up the dispensation of justice.

“Nakakaawa talaga ang bilanggo natin, minsan nakatingin na lang sila sa langit at humihingi ng milagro talaga. Pero nasa inyong kamay, pagtutulungan namin siguro dito na ma-implement ano man ang kailangan. Para na rin nating tulong sa kanila yan,” Padilla said at the hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance for the budget of the judiciary for 2023.

According to Padilla, who spent more than three years in the New Bilibid Prison, one of the problems of inmates is that they do not understand the nature of the cases against them. He said almost 80% of inmates do not understand why they were sentenced and when they would be “free”.

While the court usually provides an interpreter, Padilla noted many inmates are “too shy” to ask them.

He said this is one reason he filed Senate Bill (SB) no. 228, which mandates that official government documents be translated into Filipino so ordinary Filipinos will understand them.

Court Administrator Raul Villanueva replied that the Supreme Court (SC) may consider the use of languages other than English as part of its strategic plan for “judicial innovation.”

“Umasa kayo ang ating Korte Suprema sa ilalim ni Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo at lahat na associate justice, nakikinig sila. That’s the reason for that strategic plan, (to give) access to justice extended to those who really need,” said Villanueva.

Also, Padilla called on the judiciary to find ways to address delays in dispensing cases, saying this would be a major factor in stopping the overcrowding of jails.

“Pasensiya na, ako ang kanilang spokesman kasi galing ako sa loob,” said Padilla, who filed SB 235 seeking the regionalization of Bilibid and other penal farms nationwide.

Under SB 235, which mandates a “standard and uniform design” for jails, including reformation and administrative facilities, Padilla also pushed for the rights of inmates to be visited by their families.

Meanwhile, Padilla called on the judiciary to ensure enough judges will handle cases in various courts, so there would be no backlog of cases.

He cited figures from the Rule of Law Index of the World Justice Project showing delays in the resolution of civil and criminal cases in 2021 became the biggest stumbling block to civil and criminal justice.

The figures showed the Philippines ranked 101st out of 139 countries in ensuring an efficient, accessible, and affordable civil justice system; it ranked 120th of 139 countries in criminal justice.

Padilla also recalled interviewing a staff of a Regional Trial Court who said they were burdened with many cases because of many unfilled posts for judges. He said this should be brought to the attention of the Office of the President so it can ensure the proper appointment of judges.

“Sabi nga nila, ‘justice delayed is justice denied’. Pasensiya na kayo dati akong akusado kaya medyo ako sensitive,” Padilla said.