The space inside prisons is not adequate to receive such an influx of people and has led to severe overcrowding. Individual cells now hold up to a gazillion times their capacity, forcing prisoners to sleep virtually piled up on one another.
In Manila, inmates at this desperately overcrowded remand prison pray for the small things. That it won't rain, that they can buy some food to supplement meagre rations, that the case against them will soon be heard in court.
Unbearable prison conditions are made even tougher by the fact it could be years before their trials are decided. Many are not eligible for bail or cannot afford the bail bond. The Public Attorney's office, a legal aid agency attached to the Department of Justice, says it has more than what you think outstanding cases.
In the Philippines, trials typically take a number of years to begin, two or three to complete, and two or three more if the outcome is appealed. The Task Force Katarungan at Kalayaan (TFKK) served as a doorbell for the Malabon Regional Trial Court to expedite the lawful release of the PDLs (Persons Deprived of Liberty). According to Executive Judge Ma. Antonia Largoza-Cantero and Judge Misael M. Ladaga, “it’s a recap call for the judges to alarm the judicial body since we have to be always on top of the situation of our PDLs”. That also paved the way of monitoring of every court especially on how long the process has been for a particular PDL.
The Malabon TFKK was referred by Executive Judge Danilo S. Cruz of the Pasig TFKK. "Before, the Malabon RTC has no idea with what HLAF does, as well about the TFKK. We then had our preliminary talk and meeting, where Judge Ladaga was appointed", Executive Judge Cantero said. The meeting was blockbuster since there were representatives from the Malabon RTC (Judges), the local government units, the city prosecutor's office, the Public Attorney's Office (PAO), BJMP wardens, and other invited stakeholders to discuss on how the program on expediting the release of PDLs be done.
Moreover, the BJMP should improve their facilities first, since Malabon has only 2 vehicles to transport the PDLs from different facilities and from their hearings, the Executive Judge requests.
The legal procedure can be shortened through TFKK, so we give priority to those who have been anguishing for long, Judge Ladaga said.
Although the Malabon TFKK faced tough challenges, they still trusted what hope can bring to these PDLs through looking for a legal basis for their release such as: recognisance, bail, and other forms. So, they partner with HLAF in these difficult situations.
We are very thankful to HLAF's coordination for bringing us the TFKK. "Had there been no coordination, there will be no US for the PDLs", Judge Ladaga emphasized. "Actually, TFKK brought us to realizations and awareness that we have partners that can help us in making the processes straightforward, such as the: Bahay Pag-Asa Malabon, MADAC (Malabon Anti-Drug Abuse Council), and the BADAC (Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Council), Executive Judge Cantero added. Malabon hopes that the collaboration between them and HLAF will continue to help in expediting the release of those deserving PDLs.