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Signing MoU Marks Crucial Step in Addressing Jail Decongestion

Cagayan De Oro, Philippines – The signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and the Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS) for legal support to persons deprived of liberty marks a significant milestone in the effort to address jail decongestion and reintegrate persons deprived of liberty.

The MoU was supported by the European Union's Justice Sector Reform Programme: Governance in Justice II (GOJUST II).

Providing messages of support were BJMP Chief Ruel Rivera, PALS President Dean Gemy Festin, and the European Union’s GOJUST II Programme Senior Adviser Hector Soliman.

“Access to legal aid is critical for persons deprived of liberty. Together with the EU, we’ve been working with vulnerable groups since 2016, ensuring no one gets left behind,” said Attorney Hector Soliman.

There are around 117,425 persons deprived of liberty (PDL) awaiting trial and sentenced to three years or less in the 482 BJMP-administered jails all over the country. One of the main sources of legal support for the PDLs are the legal clinics of various law schools and the law student practitioners and supervising lawyers.

The general objective of this MoU is to provide a framework for the support to the PDLs by the various law schools under the network of the PALS. Possible areas of cooperation include: Representation of individual PDLs; Increasing the awareness of the PDLs on their rights, privileges, and duties, under the law; Assisting the BJMP in the training of a corps of paralegal aides in the jails; Assisting the BJMP in the strategies involving the possible early release of the PDLs who have served their minimum or maximum service of sentence; and assisting in the improvement of the learning management system designed for paralegals of the BJMP.

With a total grant of EUR19 million (Php 1.1 billion) over a period of four years, the EU’s GOJUST programme supports the Government of the Republic of the Philippines’ efforts to improve access to justice for all Filipinos, and thus, contribute to inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development. GOJUST works with the Philippine Supreme Court, the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government to develop more responsive and accountable justice services in the country. In addition, GOJUST aims at strengthening the Commission on Human Rights to help it carry out its constitutional mandate of civil and political rights protection and enhance human rights promotion in the Philippines. This component is co-funded with the Spanish Agency for Development Cooperation (AECID), with an additional EUR 1 million (Php 59.47 million).


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