EU pours P570M into PH project to fight rights abuses
MANILA, Philippines – A P570-million comprehensive reform program funded by the European Union to help the Philippine government address the problems of human rights violations and long-term reform of the justice system was launched Thursday.
The European Union-Philippine Justice Support Programme II (EPJUST-II): Justice for All: Enhancing Accessibility, Fighting Impunity, will be implemented for four years with the Department of the Interior and Local Government as the lead agency.
This program is a continuation and expansion of the EU assistance program to the Philippines.
Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux and other ambassadors of EU member-states were the main guests at the launch held at the Philippine National Police (PNP) National Headquarters in Camp Crame.
The goal is to help achieve equitable access to an efficient justice system for Filipinos, in particular, the poor, disadvantaged, and vulnerable people by improving the capacity and accountability of the criminal justice system stakeholders in handling cases of extra-legal killings (ELKs) and enforced disappearances (EDs).
Other major partners of the program include the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Supreme Court, Commission on Human Rights, Philippine Commission on Women, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, Integrated Bar of the Philippines and civil society organizations.
Ledoux highlighted three initiatives of the program: 1) the creation of positions of legal information officers and their extensive training under the previous program to establish full-fledged legal information offices in selected local government units 2) support to the inter-agency committee in extra-legal killings and enforced disappearances created by President Benigno Aquino III last year and 3) the program will provide recommendations and assistance to implement more efficient case management systems.
“The reform of a justice system is a long-term endeavor. Within the time frame of the EPJUST II which coincides with the remaining term of the incumbent administration, we hope he’ll put it in motion,” Ledoux said.
Meanwhile, Roxas said the program intends to cover 100 municipalities and 1,000 villages in Metro Manila and the following provinces: Abra, Camarines Sur, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Capiz, Leyte, Oriental Mindoro, Western Samar, Lanao del Norte, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Zamboanga del Norte.
These areas were chosen, Roxas said, based on certain criteria such as poverty ranking, presence of minorities and indigenous peoples, level of incidence of major human rights violations and identified as conflict-affected area.
As a highlight of the program launch, the PNP demonstrated the use of investigative kits acquired under EPJUST I for crime scene investigation.
EPJUST II is a follow-up of two previous EU-funded programs. The first one was “Access to Justice for the Poor Program,” which focused on improving the administration of the barangay justice system and training the judiciary and community members on human rights, women and gender issues.
The EU, since 2003 has provided a total financial assistance of over P1.3 billion, including the latest contribution of P570 million.
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