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New guidelines proposed to address imbalance in criminal justice system

THE Justice Sector Coordinating Council is proposing new guidelines to address concerns over the perceived imbalance in rights between the accused and victims in the criminal justice system.

The JSCC is composed of the Supreme Court, Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

SC Associate Justice Maria Filomena Singh underscored the importance of the proposed multi-sectoral “Guidelines on Victim-Sensitivity for the Criminal Justice System” when she recently spoke at the JSSC validation meeting.

Singh said it is “envisioned to strike a balance between the status of victims and the accused or the respondents in criminal proceedings.”

She added that it also targets to change the mindset in the criminal justice system, which is largely focused on the rights of the accused.

However, Singh clarified that the proposed guidelines are not intended to diminish the rights and safeguards for the accused and persons deprived of liberty but to achieve a more balanced approach.

Singh, who chairs the JSCC Technical Working Group on Processes and Capacity Building, noted that the current mindset stems from constitutional safeguards for the accused.

This focus, she said, has unintentionally relegated victims to a secondary role.

According to Singh, the initiative to draft the Guidelines started in Zamboanga City, where the JSCC launched its first specialty zone last year.

As part of the process, Singh said the technical working group will study the draft of the Guidelines before making its final recommendation, which will be subject to the approval of the JSCC Principals, the Chief Justice, the Secretary of Justice, and the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government.

The JSCC will then disseminate the approved Guidelines to all the 13 Justice Zones for implementation.

After six months, the JSCC will conduct a validation and assessment review to decide the feasibility of a nationwide rollout.