A Path to Restorative Justice: Applicability of Mental Health Courts in the Philippines

AuthorDaniel Alberto G. Guinigundo
Date01 July 2021
Publication Date01 July 2021
A Path to Restorative Justice:
Applicability of Mental Health
Courts in the Philippines
Daniel Alberto G. Guinigundo1
Described as ‘situated at the intersection of the criminal justice, mental health, substance abuse
treatment, and other social systems’2, Mental Health Courts (MHCs) are courts that deal with specialized
interventions for defendants with mental illness. Aside from presenting options other than incarceration,
they provide a distinct avenue for collaboration between the public and private sectors in developing
mechanisms to address law and policy concerns regarding prisoner mental health. Originating from
the United States, MHCs offer an innovative and targeted response to the current Philippine situation.
While the recent passage of the Mental Health Act by Congress in 2018 has brought the fatality of
mental illnesses and disorders to the fore, several gaps remain unaddressed. This article seeks to
rectify the existing lacunae in the legal and policy framework by proposing the establishment of MHCs
in the country. This shall be undertaken in five phases: First, to justify the needed reform, data must be
gathered to determine the number of inmates suffering from a mental illness; second, the enactment
or revision of mental health legislation and court rules; third, craft strategic plans to address budgetary
concerns, which shall be done through the Philippine Council for Mental Health, as the mandated
regulatory agency; fourth, forge linkages with the public and private sectors to increase awareness
through advocacy while equipping judges and concerned personnel through a series of trainings; and
fifth, conduct pilot testing in certain courts and periodic evaluations to ensure sustainability.
The Philippines is recognized as one of the most dynamic economies in the region, marked by its increas-
ing urbanization, a growing middle class, and a vibrant labour market.3 Aside from its rising economy,
its legal and policy frameworks are not lagging behind, with its established executive, legislative, and
judicial branches. Albeit these features, the Philippines still confronts several issues on law enforcement,
particularly, in its prison and correctional management.
1 Law Clerk, Supreme Court of the Philippines, Manila, Philippines.
2 See Bureau of JuStice aSSiStance, u.S. Department of JuStice, mental HealtH courtS, improving reSponSeS to people WitH
mental illneSSeS, tHe eSSential elementS of a mental HealtH court 1 (2008).
3 The World Bank, Overview (Mar. 29, 2020, 1:48 PM), https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/philippines/overview.
Asian Journal of Legal Education
8(2) 205–219, 2021
© 2021 The West Bengal National
University of Juridical Sciences
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/23220058211028411
Corresponding author:
Daniel Alberto G. Guinigundo, Supreme Court of the Philippines, Metro Manila, Manila 1000, Philippines.
E-mail: daniel2488@gmail.com

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