At the margins of the 32nd Session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCJPC32), the Philippines co-sponsored the Meeting of the Group of Friends (GoF) of the Nelson Mandela Rules held in Vienna, Austria on 22 May 2023. In line with its title “A forgotten population: The treatment of prisoners in challenging times,” the meeting focused on the practical applications of The Nelson Mandela Rules to promote a more humane conditions for prison management as well as alternatives to incarceration.
During said Meeting, the GoF formally welcomed the Philippines as the latest addition to the 37 Member States of the UN and other entities. Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla led the Philippine Delegation and delivered a keynote intervention where he presented ongoing efforts to improve the country’s corrections system.
In his statement, Secretary Remulla asserted that the PDLs in the country are not a “forgotten population”. He said, “As a principal guiding principle in our prison reform program, we treat every single PDL not as a number but a human being– with dignity and rights. That is why making our prison facilities in the Philippines more humane and more dignified is one of our priorities. We are determined to ensure that except for their liberty, our PDLs continue to enjoy all their other fundamental human rights while in detention.”
Among the key programs that he imparted include the enhancement of social rehabilitation and reintegration, establishment of state-of-the-art rehabilitation facilities and prison infrastructures, expeditious evaluation and processing of PDLs’ records and releases through digitization and effective legal representation.
Secretary Remulla also highlighted the Department’s proactive stance in leading the investigation of the death of more than a hundred inmates of the New Bilibid Prison, which has caused the investigation of the former chief of the Bureau of Corrections, who was also later indicted in court for the killing of a journalist critical of the said chief’s activities in the Bureau.
SOJ Remulla mentioned that all these programs and initiatives are aligned with President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s recent priority agenda to decongest the country’s correctional facilities. In closing, SOJ Remulla reiterated further the Philippines’s strong commitment to promote and adhere to the international standards, especially in the treatment of prisoners. According to him, the Philippines has embarked on a whole-of-nation approach to improve, if not reform, the corrections system.
For the duration of the week, the Department will be representing the Philippine Government in co-sponsoring another side event related to the implementation of the UN Joint Programme on Human Rights. A series of pre-arranged bilateral meetings with several international European Organizations are also scheduled within the week.