The government is duty-bound to ensure that the rights of all persons deprived of liberty (PDLs)—including those facing charges, those awaiting trial, and those arbitrarily detained—are respected, protected, and fulfilled in accordance with constitutional and international human rights standards. But given existing problems of overpopulation, poor living conditions, corruption, inadequate access to legal and medical assistance, and even violence within detention facilities, the fundamental rights and dignity of PDLs in the country continue to be at risk of being violated.
The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, or the Nelson Mandela Rules recognises the “great variety of legal, social, economic and geographical conditions in the world” which could impede the capacity of some States to implement these rules to the highest degree. In that regard, however, governments must still “serve to stimulate a constant endeavour to overcome practical difficulties in the way of their application, in the knowledge that they represent, as a whole, the minimum conditions which are accepted as suitable by the United Nations.”
As such, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) duly welcomes the circular of the Department of Justice (DOJ) ordering the reduction of bail bonds for indigent Filipino PDLs. The circular comes after the Justice Zone Coordinating Council dialogue in January, in which the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo, proposed to revisit the 2018 Bail Bond Guide. Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla then immediately issued new guidelines on bail amounts through Department Circular No. 011.
The Department Circular mandates prosecutors to consider the financial capacity of respondents during inquest or preliminary investigations. Except those whose crimes are punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, respondents who claim indigency may have their bail bonds slashed by 50 percent or be capped at Php 10,000.00, whichever amount is lower.
CHR echoes SOJ Remulla’s statement that lowering bail bonds is in the “interest of social justice and to afford justice for all.” The circular likewise bolsters the implementation of Republic Act (RA) No. 10389 or the Recognizance Act of 2012.
Recognizance—or the act of releasing individuals in custody who cannot afford to pay bail or other fees—is a crucial element of justice and human rights as it promotes the right to presumption of innocence, equitability, and fairness for all. By reducing bail bonds of the most marginalised PDLs, we also reduce the disparities in the criminal justice system. This also thwarts the impact of incarceration on their livelihood, relationships, and other rights.
CHR looks forward to the enactment of this circular and other clemency mechanisms by the government for PDLs. We affirm that these measures not only address the current issues within correctional facilities; in the long term, they also counter injustices and provide relief for PDLs who have been disproportionately punished.
As the country’s independent national human rights institution, CHR will continue to fulfill its mandate to help the rehabilitation and reintegration of PDLs into society in accordance with the rule of law. ###
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