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Justice Sector launches unified database for prisoners

06:40 PM January 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Justice Sector has launched a unified database that will organize the country’s problematic record-keeping of prisoners.

Agencies involved in dispensing justice–the Department of Justice (DOJ), that has supervision over the Bureau of Immigration (BI) and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor); the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), that has supervision over the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP); the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT); and the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) signed the memorandum of agreement (MOA) on the National Justice Information System (NJIS).

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The NJIS, according to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, is an information and data management system and interagency exchange portal for uniform data to be used by agencies involved in the dispensation of justice.

“Under this system, data and information on our laws, cases involving parties and persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), among others will be digitized and uploaded to a portal and shared throughout the relevant offices in the bureaucracy,” Guevarra said in his speech.

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The information, he said will be accessible to prosecutors, public defenders, judges, law enforcement officers, Immigration officers, parole and probation officers, and social workers.

“Our job does not entail simply collecting information on cases and about those involved in them, our job is to make sure that correct information and data promptly reach those who administer our criminal justice system so that they may make sure of [the data] towards the dispensation of justice,” Guevarra explained.

Justice Undersecretary for NJIS Markk Perete said: “The NJIS, as a tool to facilitate the management and exchange through the use of information technology will no doubt go a long way in addressing the inefficiencies and fragmentation in the way we process, store and manage the information which is essential to the dispensation of justice.”

Among other things, the network will address situations similar to the controversy surrounding the implementation of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) last year where persons deprived of liberties or (PDLs) were granted time allowance regardless of whether they had been convicted of heinous crimes that are not covered by the law.

Last year, former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez who was convicted of rape and multiple murder was almost released because of good conduct time allowance (GCTA) which prompted the DOJ and BuCor to review records of the inmates and together with the DILG, amend the implementing rules and regulations for the GCTA law.

“Because of the GCTA problem, refinements were made in the NJIS,” Perete said adding that the database is “up and ready” although the digitization of data is still up for completion.

“My understanding is it is immediately operational but the data digitization and uploading still has to be completed,” he added.

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Reconciling information is very crucial. Perete said all concerned agencies have to work together to reconcile the physical records.

“All the agencies would have to discuss all these differences in the data to come up with the accurate information,” Perete said.

Correct information to be used by law enforcers, Immigration officers, and parole and probation officers is important to avoid mistaken identities in various operations such as in arresting a person and preventing someone from leaving the country, Guevarra said.

“Correct information and data are important to guarantee that each PDL or inmate fully serve his or her sentence but stays not a day longer in jail,” Guevarra added.

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta lauded the NJIS saying “the very idea of real-time information exchange across agencies through the DICT technology is also groundbreaking and I believe the first of its kind in our country.”

The Judiciary is also making an effort to computerize its records through a case management system known as e-courts.

For now, Perete said the NJIS will cover records of PDLs and detainees whose cases are still with the National Prosecution Service but eventually, targeting the integration of court records.

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TAGS: Bucor, DoJ, GCTA, Justice, persons deprived of liberty
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