63 inmates gain freedom from ‘Justice on Wheels’

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/27 September)– Sixty-three inmates of the city jail or reformatory center here gained freedom on Thursday with the launching of the Supreme Court’s Enhanced Justice on Wheels (EJOW) program in the area.

Regional Trial Court Branch 35 Executive Judge Oscar Noel said the detainees received their release orders following the resolution of their cases during the expedited hearings that were conducted as part of the program.

He said the hearings were made inside a customized bus serving as EJOW’s mobile court that rolled into the city reformatory center compound in Purok Lanton, Barangay Apopong on Thursday morning.

EJOW is a special mobile court program of the Supreme Court that allows court hearings to be held outside the courtrooms.

The program is mainly aimed at decongesting jails in the country through the release of “overstaying” detainees and resolve the clogging of pending cases in local courts.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, who graced the program’s launching here, said they rolled out the EJOW to bring the services of the courts closer to poor residents in the area.

He acknowledged that some poor residents often fail to attend court hearings due to the lack of resources.

“Layunin ng EJOW ang magbigay ng mabilis at libreng hustisya sa mga maralita at nangangailangang kababayan (The EJOW seeks to expedite the free discharge of justice to our poor countrymen,” said del Castillo, who chairs the Supreme Court’s EJOW committee.

During the hearings, the mobile court took up cases of inmates who have long been staying at the city jail due to their unresolved cases.

Some of those released were already detained for eight to 11 years but their cases remained pending due to administrative concerns.

Regional Trial Court Branch 36 Judge Isaac Moran, who presided over the hearings, said some cases often take years to get resolved due to problems with the scheduled hearings.

He said among the top reasons that caused the problem were the unavailability of government prosecutors handling the case and when the presiding judges availed of their leave of absence.

“They could also be due to the unavailability of the defense counsels and actions of some witnesses,” Moran said.

Aside from the mobile court hearings, which was dubbed “Judgment Day,” the city jail’s nearly 1,100 inmates were treated to a free medical and dental mission.

The Philippine Judicial Academy also conducted an orientation for officials of the city’s 26 barangays regarding the operations of the Lupong Tagapamayapa or barangay justice system. (MindaNews)