Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto agreed with the findings of the US State Department’s human rights report on the Philippines that “our nation being plagued by a weak and overburdened criminal justice system notable for slow court procedures, weak prosecutions, and poor cooperation between police and investigators.”
“We have long been aware of that, and we have long pleaded guilty to that charge. The said report merely reiterates a crisis we have long been grappling with,” Recto said.
The law enforcement system is plagued by logistical shortfalls and manpower shortages, he said. The PNP is almost 50,000 men short of what is ideally required. They lack 18,000 long firearms and 3,000 patrol vehicles.
“Our prosecutors are saddled by the same problems. Some 1,700 vacancies remain unfilled, burdening each of the 2,000 in service with an average punishing load of 500 cases.”
Public Attorneys Office lawyers fare worse, with each of these underpaid, overworked public defenders attending 5,000 clients per year. Like prosecutors, they soldier on in spartan offices, where equipment and support staff are scarce.
Philippine courts are slowed down by vacancies in judgeships. Of the 367 Municipal Trial Courts, only 289 have judges filled. A fourth of 1,229 Regional Trial Courts either have no judge or have yet to be organized.
At any given time, the Senate leader said the judiciary has a backlog of 600,000 cases. He related that last stop in the justice system is also congested
The almost 20,000 inmates in eight Bureau of Corrections prisons are housed in cells which have an average congestion rate of 215 percent, Recto said.
Over at the BJMP, its 463 jails have a congestion rate of almost 500 percent, with each of the 116,000 inmates squeezed into less than one square meter of cell space, he said.