Chief Justice Gesmundo Inspires Hope for PDLs During the 28th National Correctional Consciousness Week
October 28, 2023
Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo address Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) studying at the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Bilibid Extension School on October 27, 2023 at the National Bilibid Prison – Medium Security Camp, Muntinlupa City. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)
In observance of this year’s 28th National Correctional Consciousness Week, Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo visited the National Bilibid Prison – Medium Security Camp and addressed Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) currently studying at the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA – Bilibid Extension School (UPHSD-BES) on Friday, October 27, 2023, in Muntinlupa City.
During his visit, Chief Justice Gesmundo lauded the UPHSD- BES’ commitment to education as a means of rehabilitation, saying, “It is inspiring to see your dedication to education as a path towards rehabilitation. I heard that almost two thousand student-PDLs are currently studying at UPHSD across various levels—grade school, high school, and vocational programs—as part of their journey towards transformation.”
Addressing the students, he added: “Whether it is freedom or justice that you await, may you continue to find strength, hope, and guidance from the Divine. Keep dedicating yourselves to your studies and embracing this path of rehabilitation as preparation for your return to your families and communities.”
The Chief Justice also underscored the importance of the jail visit as an opportunity to personally observe and monitor the conditions of the PDLs, adding that the justice system does not end within prison walls but extends to rehabilitation until PDLs are able to reintegrate into society.
Chief Justice Gesmundo further emphasized that the Supreme Court is aware of the challenges that the PDLs are facing, including the deficiency in facilities and space within the prisons. He explained that these gaps are precisely what the Court is striving to address through its judicial reforms embodied in its Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations 2022-2027, or the SPJI.
The Chief Justice said that in addition to the initiatives being undertaken for PDLs, such as recommending lower bail amounts for indigent accused individuals and expediting the release of qualified PDLs, the Court has invested in various other projects and programs to promote a judiciary that is more efficient, modern, and accessible to the people.
“These include conducting online hearings, streamlining and expediting our systems and processes, and strengthening programs for free legal assistance, which will also benefit PDLs,” said the Chief Justice.
In a brief dialogue with the PDLs and prison officials, among the concerns raised were the compassionate interpretation of Republic Act No. 10592 or the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law and the expeditious release of entries of judgment in criminal cases, which can hasten the release of long-staying inmates. In response, the Chief Justice gave the assurance that he would immediately look into these concerns.
Accompanying the Chief Justice were Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Midas P. Marquez and Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Karl B. Miranda, who arranged the visit.
Established in 1984, the UPHSD-BES ran the “Rehabilitation through Education” program, which provides medium security risk PDLs with education and livelihood skills. The program offers the degree of Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurship and Computer Hardware Servicing for free and has about 2,000 PDLs currently enrolled in its grade school, senior high school, and vocational programs.
A Person Deprived of Liberty (PDL) raises a concern with Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo as Associate Justice Jose Midas P. Marquez listens during their visit on October 27, 2023 to the National Bilibid Prison – Medium Security Camp in Muntinlupa City, in observance of this year’s 28th National Correctional Consciousness Week. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)