The European Union (EU), in partnership with the Philippine government, launched the second phase of its Justice Sector Reform Programme: Governance in Justice (GOJUST).
With an investment of Euro 19 million (Php 1.1 billion) over a period of four years, GOJUST will support ongoing efforts by the Philippine Supreme Court, the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, to improve access to justice for all Filipinos and thus, contribute to inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development.
The overall support provided under GOJUST includes a component to help strengthen the Commission on Human Rights.
The launch took place virtually on 25 November 2021 with a keynote address by the Chief Justice of the Philippines, Alexander G. Gesmundo. Messages were also given by the Secretary of the Department of Justice, Menardo I. Guevarra, Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Eduardo M. Año, and EU Ambassador Luc Véron.
“The European Union has been a committed partner to the Philippine’s Justice Sector reform since 2006. Our engagement stems from the importance we attach to democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Also, by working with the Philippines on improving access to justice, in particular for vulnerable communities, we can improve access to all other civil, political, economic and social rights.”
“We are honored to accompany the justice sector reform efforts with GOJUST II, which has been developed in close partnership with the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice and the Department of Interior and Local Government, and will be our largest investment in this area to date,” said EU Ambassador Luc Véron.
“It will be a partnership that once more will deliver dividends where it counts most – in making justice, human rights, and the rule of law not only well-entrenched and enduring institutions in Philippine society, but also a felt reality in the everyday life of every Filipino,” said Secretary of the Department of Justice, Menardo I. Guevarra.
“Composed of the DOJ, the DILG and the Supreme Court, the JSCC is both a venue and a mechanism for communication, principled cooperation and studied coordination without sacrificing institutional independence. Through the JSCC, the coordinated approach to delivering justice is the chosen platform to achieve real time satisfaction of justice needs,” said Chief Justice of the Philippines, Alexander G. Gesmundo.
“We at the Department of the Interior and Local Government are honored and grateful to work again with the distinguished vanguards of justice in pursuing wider paths of improving access to justice for all Filipinos,” said DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año.
“The launching of the Justice Sector Reform Programme: Governance in Justice II or GOJUST II presents us all a greater opportunity not only to come up with reforms and timely initiatives in the delivery of justice, but also to expand the reach and fortify the foundations of what we have started to work on in the past four and a half years,” he added.
Recognizing that many issues involving justice and justice delivery originate in local communities, Secretary Año vowed that the DILG and its attached agencies will work closely with the justice sector and other stakeholders in bringing about much-needed reforms to give rise to a fairer, more effective, efficient, and accountable justice, especially in the local and grassroots level.
“While we recognize that our work may not completely reform the justice system overnight, it will certainly lock in some basic principles and lay concrete steps that we firmly believe are going to make a fairer and more just society over the long term,” the Secretary said.
GOJUST will support the development of more responsive and accountable justice services in the Philippines. It will contribute to reducing case backlogs with the automation of courts and prosecution offices among other innovations; support the coordination of justice sector agencies at national and local level (Justice Zones); and foster the use of research in the design and management of justice sector policies.
To improve access to justice – with a focus on those most vulnerable, including women, LGBTI, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, and other excluded groups – the programme includes a grant mechanism. Funds will be awarded to civil society organizations and law schools with the best initiatives on rights awareness, paralegal training, policy advocacy and direct legal services, and the strengthening of the Barangay Justice System and informal justice providers.
In line with the findings of the Gender and Social Inclusion Assessment (GESI), this new phase of GOJUST will support justice sector agencies in addressing gender inequalities in access to justice. For example, the programme will contribute to combatting violence against women and girls by increasing the barangays’ capacity to issue protection orders as mandated by the law.
The first phase of GOJUST ran from 2016 to 2020.