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Judgment Day: SC frees 286 still in jail due to delayed trials

By: - Reporter / @TarraINQ
/ 04:50 AM December 31, 2014

MANILA, Philippines–Amid the scandal over convicted criminals living lives of luxury in prison, the Supreme Court decided to free in time for Christmas almost 300 inmates who had been left in detention by delayed trials.

About 286 inmates from Cebu, Cagayan, Isabela and Marikina City were released from jail and were reunited with their families just before the holidays under a recent resolution issued by the high court granting the release of those still awaiting verdict after serving jail time equivalent to their probable prison sentence.

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This is part of the judiciary’s efforts to decongest the country’s crowded jails under the Judgment Day program, according to a statement from the high court’s Office of the Court Administrator.

“In a recent resolution on jail decongestion, the Supreme Court directed, among others, the release of an accused who had been detained for a period at least equal to the minimum of the penalty for the offense charged against him,” the statement said.

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Under the Judgment Day program, simultaneous hearings are held to resolve cases “with detention prisoners who may already be released pursuant to existing laws and rules.”

Those released in time for the holidays had already served the possible prison term for their offense even before the court could hand down a verdict on their cases.

Deserving inmates

Of the 286 freed inmates, 166 were released by Cebu courts, 90 by courts in Marikina, 15 by Cagayan courts and another 15 by Isabela courts.

Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said more Judgment Day hearings would be held across the country in early 2015 to grant deserving inmates their freedom.

The program is a spin-off of the Supreme Court’s Enhanced Justice on Wheels Program, where mobile courts travel to underserved parts of the country to hear long-pending cases, including those involving detention prisoners who were acquitted after languishing in jail for a long time.

Lengthy trials because of clogged court dockets have led to congested detention centers for the accused, a chain of problems that the high court seeks to address through several initiatives, including continuing trials and computerized court processes.

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Crackdown on prison system

The release of the prisoners came in the midst of a crackdown on the prison system by the justice department involving convicted criminals, particularly those serving time for drug trafficking and kidnapping, who were found to be enjoying special treatment at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, living in condominium-type accommodations at the NBP’s maximum security compound with unlimited access to weapons, computers, electronics, appliances and drugs paraphernalia.

Originally posted: 7:49 PM | Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

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