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Criminal Justice System by Manuel G. Co

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  149 THE ENHANCEMENT OF APPROPRIATE MEASURES FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME AT EACH STAGE OF THE PHILIPPINE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM Manuel G. Co  *   I. INTRODUCTION In every society, relationships are manifested through interactions among individuals which may eventually lead to social coherence or division. If a society is divided, social problems may arise. A social problem may pertain to human relationships, and to the normative contexts since it represents interruption in the expected or desired scheme of things; violations of the right or the proper way as society defines these qualities; dislocation in the patterns and relationship that society cherishes. The present Philippine Criminal Justice System (CJS) was a product of various foreign influences and the country’s experiences in achieving its aspiration to protect the State and its people against the destructive effects of crime and delinquency. As a State mechanism, the CJS was established as an instrument of social control to coerce people to conform and respect individual spaces, and at the same time teaches them to abide with by the laws and rules established for the common good. Today, all over the world, all states, regardless of the form of governance, utilize mechanisms like group pressure or institutions (like the police, prosecution, courts, correction services) to enforce conformity and adherence to norms, and to control deviance in its members.Crime and delinquency are potent threats to society’s existence. In confronting these social ills, the Philippine CJS is continuously being assessed and evaluated to check its usefulness to meet to the needs of the Filipino people. According to the Production Process model, the CJS is similar to a production process where “raw materials” are screened and refined. In the said process, the raw material is the criminal suspect. The production specialists of this system actively processing the raw materials are the police, prosecution, courts, and corrections services, whether institutional-based or community-based. As the raw material moves along the production line, it changes its character. A suspect becomes an accused, an accused becomes a defendant, a defendant becomes a convicted offender, and a convicted offender becomes a probationer, prisoner or parolee/pardonee. Finally, in almost every case, an inmate becomes an ex-convict with an indelible stigma of criminal conviction. We could conclude that the justice system is offender-based, focusing on past behaviour as basis of establishing guilt, and meting out punishment. Its authority is anchored on the “police power” of the State to define crime, treat its nature, and provide punishment for any social nuisance that affects public welfare, public interest, public health, and the common good. It focuses on three commonly raised issues: Who is the culprit? What law or rules were violated? And what is the appropriate sanction or penalty? The CJS is a punitive-retributive dispensation of justice. It always treats crime as a transgression of state authority, and therefore the full force of the law should be bent forcefully to suppress the danger to the state, protect society and its people, treat and correct violators, deter others, and to vindicate absolute right and moral wrong. The system abandoned the real fact that the crime or wrongful act inflicted harm to the victim and the community, and therefore it violates people and right relationships. It’s a kind of winner/loser conflict, which rules and intent outweigh outcome, and the persons with a stake in the offence/crime are in the peripheral position heavily relying on the competence of legal professionals in pursuing “cause of action”. In the very words of the late Justice Melecio-Herrera, the idea of retributive  justice rests on dubious, interesting and intriguing assumptions: Firstly, justice can be done by making the offender worse off (through imprisonment or execution); secondly, there is a reasonable manner of determining the desserts of criminal conduct in terms of prison sentences; and thirdly is that the issue of  justice is addressed by focusing on an event in the past - the crime committed. And now the society realizes that the existing system of justice is flawed, and the need for a new way of exploring alternatives is evolving with the introduction of Restorative Justice. * Regional Director, Parole and Probation Administration, Department of Justice, National Capital Region, Quezon City, the Philippines.  150 RESOURCE MATERIAL SERIES No.81 II .  RESTORATIVE JUSTICE (RJ) Paradigm shifts are beginning to occur, and governments, all over the world, have realized that balancing the administration of justice, through a community justice, where the stakeholders directly affected by the impact of crime are active participants in deciding what is better for them, is an alternative to the present  justice system. Restorative justice is a pattern of thinking that state’s responsibility in protecting its institutions and people should not just be the responsibility of the justice mechanism, and neither should crime be the sole or even the primary business of the state, if real differences are sought in the well-being of individuals, families, and communities. In the conclusion of Justice Melecio Herrera, the idea of restorative  justice is a different way of responding to crime. Its conceptual framework seeks to render justice to victim and offender alike instead of tilting the balance in favour of only one stakeholder to the disadvantage of other. When a crime or wrongdoing is committed in a community, the assumption is that people and relationships are affected, such as: relationship between victim and the offender; relationship between offender and the community; and sometimes relationship between the victim and the community. A. Basic Elements of RJ Unlike in the traditional justice system, a restorative effort is a holistic response to crime or conflict which needs to be attended to in all these relationships to be able to strengthen community fabric. Let me emphasize, repairing relationships of stakeholders does not mean creating a friendly and positive attitude between them. It means restoring appropriate “balance of power” among stakeholders. RJ as a private  justice cited in the Source Book “Working for Justice that Heals”, Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines, EPPC (2006), is anchored on the following:Encounter: Create opportunities for victims, offenders and the community members who want to ã  meet and discuss the crime and its aftermath; Amends: Expect offenders to take steps to repair harm they have caused to their victims; ã  Reintegration: Seek to restore victims and offenders as a whole and help them become contributing ã  members of society; andInclusion: Provide opportunities for parties with a stake in a specific crime to participate in the ã  resolution. B. Goals of RJ The goal of Restorative Justice is to repair the harm; the criminal justice professional applying the philosophy needs to understand the impact of crime on the victims, and the latter’s family and future. By helping the victim the system can:Exert efforts to appropriately respond to the victim’s harm;Accordingly hold offenders accountable;Reduce the victimization of the victim again; Improve active involvement and co-operation of victim; and Protect and empower victims. III. THE PHILIPPINE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEMA. The Victim and the Criminal Justice System (CJS) In the present CJS, the victim is subjected to another situation of victimization in the following pressing situations:1. Victim presence in the courtroom with the Offender;2. The bothering impact of crime while preparing to testify;3. Facing the police, prosecutors, judges, advocates, and the public;4. Lack of understanding of how the Justice System works;5. Attitude of the community towards the victim; and6. Personal protection and stability.  151 THE 144th INTERNATIONAL SENIOR SEMINAR PARTICIPANTS’ PAPERS In the CJS, the victims are only in the sidelines awaiting any assistance which will alleviate their situation, and can not reveal the physical, psychological, emotional, financial and social impacts of crime on them. In effect they are hindered by the procedures from actively participating in deciding what is better for them in achieving satisfying justice and real healing. In the peripheral, the victim is seemingly placed in a production processing. The raw material is the victim. In the stages of processing the raw material, it moves from one production unit or line to another, and changes its character. A victim of crime becomes a presumptive complainant who has to prove his or her cause(s) of action; a complainant becomes a complaining witness, whose version of the circumstances surrounding the crime, and the evidence adduced to substantiate the accusation and narration, are seemingly add on chemical ingredients in perfecting the material (establishing “probable cause” in filing the criminal information); a complaining witness becomes a state witness to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, and consequently impose the state’s standard legal penalty; after the court proceeding, the state witness with the indelible stigma of victimization becomes a recipient of social help and praise (also social condemnation) for seeking truth and courageously championing the “cause of justice”. In all probabilities, the state’s standard remedy of attaining the “cause of justice” did not really satisfy the victim’s struggle to overcome the impact of victimization, because the court’s verdict is anchored on a ready made standard legal prescription that presumptively serves as a “panacea” to the physical, emotional, social, psychological, financial and moral sufferings of the victims and the other indirect victims. In addition, while the criminal case is in progress, victims have several concerns which are also situations that subject them to further victimization: the bail system, which legally frees the offender to roam on the street; police indecisiveness in arresting offenders who fail to appear in court; a public defender, being paid by the government by the peoples’ money, who vigorously works for the accused and through technicality and strategy interferes with the accused getting a deserved punishment; the court’s environment, statutorily and procedurally, allows the victim to be placed in a witness stand, and narrate everything and be cross-examined to tell every detail including immaterial and insignificant matters that have no bearing on the case and may be destructive of reputation; and finally, the victim’s expectation of how the community perceives them as a person after the commission of the case. These are real and actual concerns which place the victims back to the situation of being victimized again.The justice system, which is symbolically represented by a blindfolded woman carrying a scale in one hand, and a sword in other, is itself the symbol of peoples’ struggle as a civilized nation in the quest for satisfying justice. Behind the machinery are structures which operate in the prevention of crime through the enforcement of laws, the prosecution of offenders, the administration of justice, and ultimately the correction and rehabilitation of offenders caught in the web of the criminal justice system. Unfair criticisms against the enforcement of laws, administration of justice, and treatment of offenders describe the symbol with sarcasm. The blindfold made up of translucent material is falling, the scales are completely tipped and rusting, and the sword could no longer cut and is dropping from her grip. These criticisms convey the message that real and satisfying justice is very difficult to achieve or an “impossible dream”. This is the institutional way of achieving justice, in which at the end, one social injury is replaced by another, and therefore, is a never-ending quest for justice.  B. Crime and Impact on the Victim Victimology is the scientific study of victimization, including the relationships between victims and offenders, the interactions between victims and the criminal justice system - the police, prosecution, court, and corrections services - and the connections between victims and the other social groups and institutions. In Restorative Justice, no such classification of victimless crime is acceptable, because all crimes have direct or indirect victims, and even the offender is also in broad terms considered a victim.In reality, the issue of victimization is an encompassing issue that involves not just the direct victims, but likewise the indirect victims who have suffered the effect of victimization. The traditional justice system does not recognize the suffering of these indirect victims like the members of the family of the complainant, and the community that are affected. In restorative justice, discussions on victimization include the effect of the wrongdoing on indirect victims, because it views crime through a different lens, and looks into the issue of the victim in the following ways:1 . What is the extent or degree of the harm? (Analysis/Assessment);  152 RESOURCE MATERIAL SERIES No.81 2 . What should be done? (Treatment Plan);3 . Who is/are responsible? (Obligatory responsibilities).Restorative efforts change the definition of a case from an offender-based focus to victims-focus, and likewise change the nature of the intervention to humanize and transform the means by which community safety, accountability, competency development, and healing of victims is achieved. The community, which is a side stream victim, facilitates the process through participative dialogue, and responds to present and future needs and obligations of stakeholders. In the case of the offender, restorative efforts are directed towards “righting the wrong” committed, and voluntarily acknowledging accountability such as: acknowledging causing harm; understanding harm from the other person’s point of view; recognizing the fact that he or she has choices; taking steps to make amends (like apology, repair of harm, etc.); and taking actions to make changes for the better so that it will not happen again. To a victim, the above are his or her possible expectations and will satisfy his or her craving for truth and justice thereby reducing the chronic and catastrophic stressors that traumatized the victim. C. The Victim and Law Enforcers Enforcing laws and rules in reality is not just running after criminals, restraining suspects to prevent them from committing acts of violence and disorder, and placing them in manacles. As the first line of social control, the law enforcers are mandated to enforce laws to the fullest. In our country, a host of law enforcement agencies, among others, include the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Customs, the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Barangay   Units (Village government). They are in the forefront of preventing and controlling acts that disturb the social conditions of people and places.In the Philippines, the first line of policing is primarily the responsibility of the more than 50,000 barangay   units (village government) run by the local village councils and the volunteer Barangay Security and Development Officers (Village law enforcers). The Punong    Barangay   (Village Chief) is a person of authority. In this level, a Katarungan   Pambarangay   (Village Justice System) is established by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1508, as amended by Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Act of 1991. These village officials, council members, and other responsible members of the village are tapped in the resolution of conflicts and differences among residents. The processes of mediation, conciliation or arbitration are utilized in the settlement of conflicts or differences. The victim’s complaint, either oral or written, is the basis of the dialogue. Its objectives are as follows: to promote speedy administration of justice, develop and preserve Filipino culture and strengthen the family as the basic social unit; to decongest court caseloads, which cause a deterioration in the quality of justice; and to enhance the quality of justice by formally organizing and institutionalizing a system of amicably settling disputes without resorting to the formal justice system. The jurisdictional coverage of the law, however, is limited with respect to criminal cases. In this level, the victims are protected by the village government through its officials and volunteer civilian enforcers. In Republic Act No. 9262, the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004, passed to protect the family and its members, particularly women and children, against violence and threat to their personal safety and security, guaranteed a layer of protection for complaining victims. The Punong Barangay   is given by law the authority to issue a Barangay   Protection Order (BPO) to order the perpetrator to desist from committing acts of violence as defined in the said law. The Barangay   Protection Order shall be only effective for 15 days. In case the perpetrator-respondent violates the order, a complaint for violation shall be initiated by the Village head, or Kagawad   (Council member), who issued the Order in the absence of the Village head, and filed it with any Municipal Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court or Municipal Circuit Trial Court that has jurisdiction over the Village that issued the Barangay   Protection Order. Violation of the said order is punishable by imprisonment of 30 days without prejudice to any other criminal or civil action that the victims may file for any of the acts committed. In excess of the 15 days, the victims can file a petition for the issuance of Temporary Protection Order (TPO) for 30 days or Permanent Protection Order (PPO), which already require a notice and hearing on the merits of issuing PPO within one day. Where the Court is unable to conduct hearing within one day, and the TPO issued is due to expire, the Court could extend or renew the TPO for a period of 30 days at each particular time until final judgment is issued. A PPO shall be effective until revoked by the Court upon application of the person in whose favour the Order is issued. The Court shall not deny the issuance of the protection order on the basis of lapse of time between the act of violence and the filing of the application. Regardless of the conviction or acquittal of the accused in a criminal prosecution under the said Act, the
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