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MANILA, Philippines – The European Union has funded with P540 million (10 million euros) a program to reckon with the sticky issues of human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances, in the country.

Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II said Wednesday the Department of Interior and Local Government will launch Thursday the comprehensive reform program dubbed “European Union-Philippine Justice Support Programme II (EPJUST-II): Justice for All: Enhancing Accessibility, Fighting Impunity.”

Implementation of the four-year program will have the DILG as the lead agency. The EPJUST II Programme is a continuation and expansion of the EU assistance program to the Philippines, Roxas said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux and other ambassadors of EU member-states are the main guests at the launch at the Philippine National Police (PNP) National Headquarters in Camp Crame.

The EU-funded program’s goal, said Roxas, is to “help achieve equitable access to an efficient justice system for Filipinos, in particular, the poor, disadvantaged, and vulnerable people by improving the capacity and accountability of the criminal justice system stakeholders in handling cases of extra-legal killings (ELKs) and enforced disappearances (EDs).”

Other major partners in the program are the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Supreme Court (SC), Commission on Human Rights (CHR, Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and civil society organizations.

Manila welcomes EU support through EPJUST II, seeing it as a means for boosting its efforts in strengthening the capacities of law enforcement, the judiciary and prosecution to manage and quickly resolve major cases such as ELKs and EDs, according to Roxas.

The program will cover 100 municipalities and 1,000 barangays in Metro Manila and these provinces: Abra, Camarines Sur, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Capiz, Leyte, Oriental Mindoro, Western Samar, Lanao del Norte, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Zamboanga del Norte.

These areas were chosen, Roxas said, based on certain criteria such as poverty ranking, presence of minorities and indigenous peoples, level of incidence of major human rights violations and identified as conflict-affected area. The program has three major components:

3 major components

Component I – Enhancing Accessibility, which aims to facilitate people’s access to legal information and assistance and enhance the provision of quicker and fairer judicial services;

Component II – Fighting Impunity, which aims to make the criminal justice system more efficient in preventing and punishing major crimes in general and extra-legal killings and enforced disappearances in particular through the improvement of the investigation, prosecution and adjudication processes; and

Component III – Enhancing Transparency and Accountability, which strengthens the tools to measure the justice system’s performance and the mechanism for its regular external assessment.

As a highlight of the program launch, the PNP will demonstrate the use of investigative kits acquired under EPJUST I during crime scene investigation.

EPJUST II is a follow-up of two previous EU-funded programs. One is the “Access to Justice for the Poor Program”, which focused on improving the administration of the barangay justice system and training the judiciary and community members on human rights, women and gender issues.

The other was EPJUST, which helped strengthen the capacities of the criminal justice system stakeholders to prevent ELKs and EDs, and probe and monitor them.