‘Justice on Wheels’ resolves 85 cases in Davao del Norte

Apr. 10, 2010

DAVAO CITY—Some 85 cases long pending in court were speedily resolved when the Justice on Wheels rolled out to the province of Davao del Norte on March 30, 2010.

Executive Judge Rowena Apao-Adlawan of the Regional Trial Court-Branch 30 in Tagum City said a considerable number of inmates involved in these cases are now free men after languishing for many years in jail.

This will really be a second chance for fortunate prisoners, as some of them have already served the term of their sentence, while others have overstayed in jail.

Adlawan said the Enhanced Justice on Wheels (Ejow), a special mobile court program of the Supreme Court that allows court hearings to be held outside courtrooms in Ejow buses, has become a source of hope for inmates still behind bars.

On its second visit to the province, seven judges from various regional and municipal trial courts in Davao del Norte heard 85 cases to help decongest local jails and declog court dockets.

Twenty-six cases were also resolved by the mobile court-annexed mediation program, where 16 cases were settled, nine were reset, while one was referred back to court.

The Ejow project first visited Davao del Norte in 2008, resolving around 50 cases.

Justice Nimfa Vilches, deputy court administrator of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, said 86 cases can never be resolved in normal court proceedings.

She attributed the alleged ‘slow judicial process’ to several factors, ranging from the judicial structure, rules of procedure, insufficiency of resources, or even political reasons.

“The Ejow is a small but working solution towards really putting an end to the slow turning of the wheels of justice in the country,” she said.

Aside from its primary aim of helping decongest the country’s jails and court dockets, Vilches said the Ejow project also conducts mediation services, legal aid clinics, medical and dental missions for inmates, dialogues with various sectors and information dissemination with barangay officials.

Ejow has already released 3,148 inmates throughout the country since 2008. Some 5,572 cases were also settled amicably through the mobile court-annexed mediation program.

Vilches revealed priority inmates are those who have been languishing in jail for more than the prescribed maximum penalty and those who are willing to plea bargain for lesser offense and to plead guilty so that they can be released if the possible sentence will be lesser or just equal to the preventive detention.

She added victim-less offenses without private complainants are also included, such as drug cases, violation of ordinances, illegal possession of firearms, etc., where the state is the direct plaintiff.

Governor Rodolfo del Rosario earlier lauded the Supreme Court for bringing justice closer to the people, especially the poor,

He welcomed Ejow for serving the needs especially of disadvantaged prisoners, who don’t have enough resources to finance court proceedings that usually drag on for years.

With an annual budget of 6.1 million pesos, Davao del Norte Provincial Rehabilitation Center now accommodates 212 inmates in its five close and 4 open cells. (PIA)

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