JUSTICE ZONE. Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo leads the Justice Sector Coordinating Council members in launching the first ever trafficking-free Justice Zone on Friday (Feb. 24, 2023). The Justice Zone brings together the Judicial and Executive Branches of government to stand with the aims of taking a zero-tolerance policy against all forms of human trafficking. (Photo courtesy of Supreme Court PIO)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo led members of the Justice Sector Coordinating Council (JSCC) in launching here Friday the Zamboanga City Justice Zone (ZCJZ), which aims to address trafficking in persons.

“Here in the ZCJZ, we will not only tighten all loopholes in the arrest, investigation, prosecution, and judgment phases of anti-trafficking cases, but also pilot breakthrough initiatives towards a more effective counter-trafficking program,” Gesmundo said.

Paramount among the initiatives, he said, is the establishment of victim-sensitive courts which will train justice sector actors to act with sensitivity towards victims of human trafficking to ensure that they are provided a safe environment in their legal fight against their abusers.

The Chief Justice also vowed to propose to his fellow JSCC principals the expansion of the coverage of the Victims Compensation Fund.

“The fund is statutorily administered by the Department of Justice principally for the witness protection program and for unwarranted incarcerations. The funds are generated through a fixed amount collected as part of the required docket fees for every new case filed in our courts,” he said.

The third breakthrough initiative, he said, is providing the prosecution offices and courts with video conferencing equipment and mandating its use in anti-trafficking cases.

This, he said, will insulate the victims from reliving their harrowing experiences face-to-face with their abusers, within the confines allowed by the Constitution.

Supported by the JSCC in partnership with European Union Governance in Justice Programme and the ASEAN-Australia Counter Trafficking, the city’s Justice Zone is the 10th to be unveiled in the country.

Earlier established were those in the cities of Quezon, Cebu, Davao, Angeles, Bacolod, Naga, Calamba, Balanga and Baguio.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Filomena Singh, chairperson of the JSCC technical working group on processes and capacity building, gave a presentation on the significance of Zamboanga City as a Justice Zone.

Singh said the city was chosen as the JSCC’s first Specialty Justice Zone “because the fight against human trafficking began here.”

Mayor John Dalipe vowed to make the city a leader in the fight against human trafficking and to fully support the ZCJC in all its efforts to create a responsive, accessible, and accountable justice system.

The Justice Zone project aims to bring together the judicial and executive branches of government to stand and take a zero-tolerance policy against all forms of human trafficking nationwide. (PNA)