Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Justice on Wheels rolls out in Sarangni, Hears, frees 93 inmates in one day

ALABEL, Sarangani (January 13, 2009) – Sarangani's Justice On Wheels,a bus-turned- mobile court, rolled out for its maiden trip Monday(January 12) to the provincial jail, resolving cases of 93 inmates whoare now free men after a day in court.

Most of them have served the term of their sentence and some werealready "overstaying".

But Judge Oscar Noel said hearings will continue overtime for 69 cases involving more than 100 detainees.

"With the Justice on Wheels, the hearing was requested by thedetainees who are willing to plea bargain for lesser offense and pleadguilty so that they can be released if the possible sentence will belesser or just equal to the preventive detention," Noel said.

"One thing would be sure that today they would know why they are goingout of jail and what would be their penalty," the judge said.

"(The mobile court) is actually just like a regular court, only thatwe are bringing justice closer to the people. Nothing is specialexcept that we are now hearing their cases at the bus," Noel said.

The Justice on Wheels Project is under the Supreme Court's Justice Enhancement and Empowerment Program (JEEP). In Metro Manila, itstarted with two buses of the Supreme Court.But "it is only the first time in the country that a local governmentunit donated a bus to the Supreme Court to be used as mobile court,"Noel said.

Noel said the Justice on Wheels can really help declog and expeditecourt proceedings especially where municipalities are separated and it would require a lot of expenses for litigants to bring their witnessesto testify in court."Those who are coming from Maasim, Kiamba and Maitum towns would havetheir cases heard in their respective municipalities," Noel said.

Records show some detainees have been detained at the provincial jail for 18 years now.

Joery Labuayan of Malungon town was accused of illegal possession offire arms and cattle rustling when he was 18. After spending 17 yearsin prison, Joery finally leaves the jail Monday (January 12). Ifconvicted, he could have served lesser jail time."I blame nobody for what happened, it's just that we are poor and Iknow nothing to defend my case," Joery said in vernacular.

Jacinto Jayno, 53, was accused of murder and sentenced to 8 years andone day to 12 years imprisonment. Jayno was released after pleadingguilty to a lesser offense and having spent 13 years in detention.

Leodigario Watin, 59, with three others, has spent 18 years in jail for frustrated murder but convicted for physical injuries.

Roberto Mustafa, after spending 13 years in prison for robbery of a carabao and some mamon (a kind of cheap bread), had his last hearing five years ago and realized his past: "Magpakabuotan gyud ta (We haveto be kind always)," Mustafa said."We really thank the government for giving us another chance to live anormal life," he added.

The provincial legal office reports part of the reasons of the clogging of dockets is the very slow movement of cases. Cases filed in 1997 are still in court, mostly due to the absence of witnesses, beingtoo expensive for their part to be brought to court.

A single litigation for a complainant from the municipality of Maitum will cost him P5,000 and his witnesses to come to the Regional TrialCourt (RTC) in the capital town Alabel for a hearing.

The RTC in Sarangani has in its latest statistics more than 3,000cases pending and unresolved. The prosecutor's office on the otherhand is receiving the influx of a minimum 15 cases per week.All these will be resolved by the sole provincial prosecutor of the province. At the prosecutor's office, there is already a pending 1,500cases left unresolved by the previous fiscal on duty.

Due to clogged dockets, the provincial jail has exceeded its projected capacity of inmates by 50 percent.These inmates are either waiting for their arraignment for many yearsalready, or for dismissal of their cases due to lack of witnesses.

The provincial government provides P9 million subsidy per year to runthe provincial jail.The Justice on Wheels is a source of hope for inmates still behind bars, a jail official said.

The provincial initiatives in helping out in the dispensation of justice are a fulfillment of a social responsibility as well as moral obligation, according to a Justice on Wheels briefer.

The speedy administration of justice is part and parcel of thedirection of a progressive approach on peace and development in the province."The objective of the mobile court is to help ease out the dockets ofthe court by providing a venue of trial in the municipality the mobile court can be transported," the briefer stated. (Russtum G.Pelima/SARANGANI INFORMATION OFFICE)

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