Last September 20, the Regional Trial Court Branch 152 of Pasig City invited the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Public Attorneys’ Office (PAO), Prosecutors’ Office, and Regional Trial Court Judges from Pateros City, Pasig City and San Juan City for a meeting held at Judges Lounge, Regional Trial Court, Pasig City.
Present during the meeting were JO1 Marjorie D. Coplaten from San Juan City Jail Female Dorm, BJMP Pasig City Jail Male Dorm Warden – J/SUPT Emmanuel A. Tolentino, C/INSP Margie B. Monsalud – Jail Warden Female Dorm, JO1 Efren N. Melendro, SJO1 Jeremy P. Gamboa, PAO Pasig City District Lawyer, Atty. Maria Zaida Q. Alfiler, BJMP San Juan City Jail Male Dorm Warden – S/INCP Leonardo C. Lavela, Office City Prosecutor - Atty. Rey Camilo R. Dumlao and Judge Danilo A. Buemio from RTC Branch 265 of Pasig City. The meeting was led by Judge Danilo S. Cruz. Present as well were HLAF Jail Decongestion staff, Mr. Juanito S. Vinluan, Jr., LL.B., RSW, Mr. Melvin B. Caymo, RCrim, and Mr. Alfredo Alaras and 10 student interns from Ateneo Law School.
Judge Cruz began by commending the attendance of the BJMP and the good leadership performance of the present wardens of Pasig City Jails. It was also mentioned that this Task Force was formed as part of the A0 151 of the Supreme Court. The incident of the inmate from Pasig City Jail who vomited blood before the hearing was also raised, and concluded that there would be an X-ray examination for all persons who might be affected by the suspected cause of death, which is Tuberculosis.
The meeting discussed the following for the information of the personnel present during the meeting:
· Amended Guidelines regarding RA 9165
o This was a Circular issued by Sec. Guevarra (from DOJ). It is now recommended that the approval of plea-bargaining must be based on these guidelines.
§ These guidelines amended the previously issued guidelines of former Sec. Aguirre.
o These guidelines were forged during a meeting with Justice Peralta, and Judge Cruz was one of the persons who were instrumental to the creation of the said guidelines.
o Before, the trial for drug related cases were limited to drug cases court. Presently, these cases are being raffled also to other courts.
§ Before, in Pasig, there were only 3 courts that handle drug cases. Presently, 13 courts can take cognizance of drug cases.
· Difference between SC guidelines and DOJ guidelines
o In terms of scope, the guidelines issued by the SC are broader.
§ The SC guidelines provide more avenues for the accused to avail of probation. For instance, an accused found guilty of possession of shabu could avail of the plea bargain to the lesser offense under Sec. 12 – possession of paraphernalia – provided that the said shabu is less than 5 grams.
§ Nonetheless, both guidelines have the same intention, which is to help the accused.
o In case of conflict between the two guidelines, the final determination pertaining to their application rests within the sound discretion of the judge.
· Importance of Coordination and long-term goal
o Although the task force is an effective means to the goal of decongestion, its presence is not perpetual. Hence, Judge Buemio stressed the importance of inculcating in everyone’s personal life the commitment in achieving these goals.
o Coordination of everyone is essential.
§ For instance, PAO could get the list of detainees from BJMP to check whether there are detainees or convicts who have already served their sentence, and in such case, PAO could move for their release or call the attention of the judge that they have been in detention for more than the sentence.
§ BJMP said that they have already provided for the lists and PAO also were already acting upon such issue.
· Drug Dependency Test causing delay in resolving motions for plea bargaining
o PAO said that they have already filed hundreds of motions for the plea-bargaining. However, the problem rests with the Drug Dependency test because the latter is a condition sine qua non for the court to approve the motion to enter into plea-bargaining. Furthermore, the drug test usually takes 3 months, which causes more delay to the proceedings.
o The Prosecutor’s Office of Rizal was mentioned that it does not object to the motion because they already have a template decision for such motion. Although this seems to be a deviation from the Revised Guidelines, it helps in the speedy resolution of the motions.
o The Deputy City Prosecutor asked the BJMP if they could initiate the Drug Dependency Test in order to efficiently resolve the motions for plea-bargaining because once the said DDT has already been issued, there would no longer be an objection from the prosecutor.
§ However, the BJMP said that they could not do it because they merely rely on court orders and without such, they could not bring the inmates outside the jail. The court order is also necessary for the safeguard and prevention of the detainees from escaping.
§ As a remedy, PAO suggested that they would file ahead of time for the request of drug dependency test.
o There was also unanimity in the suggestion that there should be coordination with the City Health Officer since they are the ones authorized to release the results of the examination.
· Drug rehabilitation
o HLAF brought up the issue that some who are required for rehabilitation are not being brought up to rehab even though the supposed period for such rehabilitation should have been finished already, and this was due to the of lack of capacity to accommodate them.
o Judge Buemio said that PAO should immediately inform the BJMP to go through the process. For the court’s participation, they are just waiting for the motion so that they could give an order of approval directing the BJMP or any concerned authorities.
o Paralegals could also send letters to the court to seek permission, but to accord due respect to PAO or the private counsel, their conformity should be requested.
o There was a suggestion that if after 6 months, the drug test results were negative, then perhaps there would be no need for the rehabilitation. Mere motion for release would suffice.
· Update regarding the x-ray examination
o The cause of death is still uncertain. It could be TB or ulcer. However, being a Muslim, there was no time for autopsy because of the religious tradition of immediate burial. Nonetheless, as a safety precaution, an assumption of worst-case scenario must be considered.
o So far, the immediate fellow inmates of the deceased inmates were already subjected to examinations and the results were negative. There were also no signs of TB in their dorm. However, for the other inmates, there were still no results because the examinations are taken by batch which is a max 20 persons.
o There should be more accredited clinics. Currently, there is only one accredited clinic in Pasig.
§ Also, there should be recommendations for qualified doctors so that there can be prompt accreditation that would hasten the drug dependency test.
§ This could be done by proper coordination with the City Health Officer (Aida).
o Machine for the drug dependency test can be brought to the jail with the proper coordination from the local authorities concerned.
o Subjecting the detainees to drug dependency test as soon as possible so that in case the result is needed, there would be no delay in resolving the motions for plea-bargaining.
A meeting with the local government unit of Pasig City together with PAO, Exec. Judge, BJMP, Office of the Prosecutor and HLAF was also conducted last September 26.