Honourable Chief Justice Sereno,
Honourable Secretary Sueno,
Honourable Secretary Aguirre,
Honourable Associate Justices of the Supreme Court,
Partners, ladies and gentlemen, good morning to all of you!
It is a great pleasure for me to address you on the occasion of the launch of the ‘Governance in Justice’ or GOJUST project. Our cooperation with the Philippines in the field of Rule of Law stretches back for over a decade. Our initial ‘Access to Justice for the poor’ project followed by the EPJUST I and II projects worked with all the institutional actors in the justice sector as well as civil society in an effort to improve their capacity to deliver better services to Filipinos and to help achieve equitable access to justice for the most vulnerable groups in society.
GOJUST is our largest and most ambitious programme in this area to date. It has been developed in close partnership with the Supreme Court and justice sector agencies and its central theme is justice sector coordination and the efficient delivery of criminal justice.
The criminal justice system is a significant component of the entire justice system. 70% of cases that come to the courts are criminal in nature. However, rapid population growth, economic development, and urbanisation of some cities with all its positive impact has also added to the pressure on service delivery in the Philippines. One such impact is the overloading of the criminal justice system.
It is crucial that the government is able to respond and provide measures to decongest the system. As the Philippines moves towards middle-income status, a properly functioning justice system will be essential for the business climate and to ensure the continuity of economic growth.
The GOJUST programme will endeavour to strengthen the rule of law in the Philippines. The programme will aim to ensure sustainability of programme interventions through recommendations for legislative, regulatory and procedural reforms in the criminal justice system. Measures to decongest the prosecution offices and the courts are one key activity of the programme. Furthermore, GOJUST will also contain a strong human rights component, for which we are acting in partnership with the Government of Spain.
Another key element of GOJUST is its emphasis on coordination. Justice sector agencies are indeed independent but also dependent on each other. It will be important to move from an institutions approach to a systems approach to justice delivery. This will facilitate the identification of strategic and sustainable solutions based on cross sector analysis to address identified problems rather than individual institutions attempting to address problems on their own.
This is a shift in approach from institutional capacity building to also include a more process-oriented and strategic approach. In line with this approach, GOJUST will support the institutionalisation of the Justice Sector Coordinating Council, the development of a long-term reform strategy and investment plan and the roll-out in 8 new areas of the Justice Zone concept.
I am encouraged to note that there have already been some major developments in these areas. Now, for the first time, the new Philippine Development Plan includes a separate chapter – no longer included only as part of governance – on justice.
It is called “Swift and Fair Administration of Justice”. It makes reference to the Justice Sector Coordinating Council and the Justice Zone as the mechanisms that will be used to take forward the very ambitious plans that are outlined in the justice chapter.
From a development perspective, this has happened in the best way possible. The justice sector agencies have done most of the work themselves with only a little incentive provided by GOJUST. This augurs well for ownership and sustainability.
We hope that GOJUST may facilitate a similar holistic approach to the issue of how to deal with drugs cases. These types of cases make up more than half of the total caseload of criminal cases and their number is increasing at an unprecedented rate, thereby putting significant pressure on the justice system and all the involved justice agencies. Any intervention in the area of anti-illegal drugs cases must be justified from the perspective of strengthening judicial remedies. It will require a systems approach to identify solutions that are analytical and strategic and therefore long-term and sustainable in terms of both institutional, sector, procedural as well as legislative requirements.
I would like to end my remarks by expressing my gratitude and appreciation to the Chief Justice, Maria Lourdes Sereno, to Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre of the DOJ, to DILG Secretary Mike Sueno, as well as to the Chair of the Human Rights Commission, Chito Gascón. The GOJUST programme is now all in your hands, and I am confident that through your joint efforts, it will be a great success.