IV. THE PHILIPPINE LEGAL PROFESSION
The Supreme Court has settled the constitutionality of the creation of the Integrated Bar of the Philippine (IBP) in a per curiam Resolution in Administrative Case No. 526, In the Matter of the Integration of the Bar of the Philippines, January 9, 1973, pursuant to Article VIII of the 1973 Constitution, which gave the Supreme Court the power to Apromulgate rules concerning pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, and the admission to the practice of law@ . (See also Rule 139-A, Rules of Court).
Prior to the ruling of the Supreme Court in Adm. Matter No. 526, Pres. Ferdinand Marcos had signed into law R.A. No. 6397 on September 17, 1971. The law provided for the integration of the Philippine Bar within two years from its approval.
In commanding the integration of the Bar, the Supreme Court expressly adopted the principle of Amaximum Bar autonomy with minimum supervision and regulation by the Supreme Court@. The resolution noted the survey conducted by the Commission on Bar Integration among 15,090 lawyers which
showed that 96.45 percent of the lawyers were in favor of bar integration.
The general purposes of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines are as follows:
1. Assist in the administration of justice;
2. Foster and maintain on the part of its members high ideals of integrity, learning, professional competence, public service and conduct;
3. Safeguard the professional interests of its members;
4. Cultivate among its members a spirit of cordiality and brotherhood;
5. Provide a forum for the discussion of law, jurisprudence, law reform, pleading, practice and procedure, and the relations of the Bar to the Bench and to the public, and to publish information relating thereto;
6. Encourage and foster legal education;
7. Promote a continuing program of legal research in substantive and adjective law, and make reports and recommendations thereon; and
8. Enable the Bar to discharge its public responsibility effectively.
The Supreme Court held that integration of the Bar will, among other things, make it possible for the legal profession to:
1. Render more effective assistance in maintaining the Rule of Law;
2. Protect lawyers and litigants against the abuse of tyrannical judges and prosecuting officers;
3. Discharge, fully and properly, its responsibility in the disciplining and/or removal of incompetent and unworthy judges and prosecuting officers;
4. Shield the judiciary, which traditionally cannot defend itself except within its own forum, from the assaults that politics and self-interest may level at it, and assist it to maintain its integrity, impartiality and independence;
5. Have an effective role in the selection of judges and prosecuting officers;
6. Prevent the unauthorized practice of law, and break up any monopoly of local practice maintained through influence or position;
7. Establish welfare funds for families of disabled and deceased lawyers;
8. Provide placement services, and establish legal aid offices and set up lawyer reference services throughout the country so that the poor may not lack competent legal service;
9. Distribute educational and informational materials that are difficult to obtain in many of our provinces;
10. Devise and maintain a program of continuing legal education for practising attorneys in order to elevate the standards of the profession throughout the country;
11. Enforce rigid ethical standards, and promulgate minimum fees schedules;
12. Create law centers and establish law libraries for legal research;
13. Conduct campaigns to educate the people on their legal rights and obligations, on the importance of preventive legal advice, and on the functions and duties of the Filipino lawyer; and
14. Generate and maintain pervasive and meaningful country-wide involvement of the lawyer population in the solution of the multifarious problems that afflict the nation.
The Supreme Court noted that bar integration in England, Canada and the United States had yielded the following benefits:
1. Improved discipline among the members of the Bar;
2. Greater influence and ascendancy of the Bar;
3. Better and more meaningful participation of the individual lawyer in the activities of the Integrated Bar;
4. Greater Bar facilities and services;
5. Elimination of unauthorized practice;
6. Avoidance of costly membership campaigns;
7. Establishment of an official status for the Bar;
8. More cohesive profession; and
9. Better and more effective discharge by the Bar of its obligations and responsibilities to its members, to the courts, and to the public.
In its Resolution, dated August 3, 1978, in A.M. No. 1928, In the Matter of the IBPMembership Dues Delinquency of Atty. Marcial A. Edillion (IBP Adm. Case No. MDD-1), the Supreme Court reiterated the constitutionality of the Integrated Bar of the Philippine and disbarred the respondent for nonpayment of his IBP annual dues. It ruled that Athe matters of admission, suspension, disbarment and reinstatement of lawyers and their regulation and supervision have been and are indisputably recognized as inherent judicial functions and responsibilities@ (citing In Re Sparks, 267 Ky. 93, 101 S.W. 2d 194).
The Integrated Bar shall be strictly non-political, and every activity tending to impair this basic feature is strictly prohibited and shall be penalized accordingly. No lawyer holding an elective, judicial, quasi-judicial, or prosecutory office in the Government or any political subdivision or instrumentality thereof shall be eligible for election of appointment to any position in the Integrated Bar or any Chapter thereof shall be considered ipso facto resigned from his position as of the moment he files his certificate of candidacy for any elective public office or accepts appointment to any judicial, quasi-judicial, or prosecutory office in the Government or any political subdivision or instrumentality thereof. (Sec. 13, Rule 139-A).
Every member of the Integrated Bar shall pay such annual dues as the Board of Governors shall determine with the approval of the Supreme Court. A fixed sum equivalent to ten percent (10%) of the collection from each Chapter shall be set aside as a Welfare Fund for disabled members of the Chapter and the compulsory heirs of deceased members thereof. (Sec. 9, Rule 139-A).
Subject to the provisions of Section 12 of Rule 139-A, default in the payment of annual dues for six months shall warrant suspension of membership in the Integrated Bar, and default in such payment for one year shall be a ground for the removal of the name of the delinquent member from the Roll of Attorneys. (Sec. 10, Rule 139-A).
A member may terminate his membership by filing a written notice to that effect with the Secretary of the Integrated Bar, who shall immediately bring the matter to the attention of the Supreme Court. Forthwith he shall cease to be a member and his name shall be stricken by the Court from the Roll of Attorneys. Reinstatement may be made by the Court in accordance with rules and regulations prescribed by the Board of Governors and approved by the Court. (Sec. 11, Rule 139-A).
The Board of Governors shall provide in the By-Laws for grievance procedures for the enforcement and maintenance of discipline among all the members of the Integrated Bar, but no action involving the suspension or disbarment of a member or the removal of his name from the Roll of Attorneys shall be effective without the final approval of the Supreme Court. (Sec. 12, Rule 139-A. See also Rule 139-B, re: the power of the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline to conduct hearings on administrative cases filed against lawyers).
All voluntary Bar associations now existing or which may hereafter be formed may co-exist with the Integrated Bar but shall not operate at cross-purposes therewith. (Sec. 17, Rule 139-A).
In connection with the delegated power of the IBP to investigate and discipline (less than suspension) Filipino lawyers for misconduct and other
grounds, the relevant provisions of Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court are reproduced below:
SECTION 1. How Instituted. C Proceedings for the disbarment, suspension, or discipline of attorneys may be taken by the Supreme Court motu propio, or by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) upon the verified complaint of any person. The complaint shall state clearly and concisely the facts complained of and shall be supported by affidavits of persons having personal knowledge of the facts therein alleged and/or by such documents as may substantiate said facts. The IBP Board of Governors may, motu propio or upon referral by the Supreme Court or by a Chapter Board of Officers, or at the instance of any person, initiate and prosecute proper charges against erring attorneys including those in the government service. (Sec. 1, Rule 139-B).
Sec. 12. Review and decision by the Board of Governors.
a) Every case
heard by an
be reviewed by
the IBP Board of
the record and
transmitted to it
his report. The
decision of the
Board upon such
review shall be in
writing and shall
the facts and the
reasons on which
it is based. It
within a period
thirty (30) days
from the next
meeting of the
the submittal of
b) If the Board, by the vote of a majority of its total membership, determines that the respondent should be suspended from the practice of law or disbarred, it shall issue a resolution setting forth its findings and recommendations which, together with the whole record of the case, shall forthwith be transmitted to the Supreme Court for final action.
c) If the
the Board or the
imposed by it is
fine) it shall
issue a decision
case shall be
petition of the
party filed with
fifteen (15) days
from notice of
d) Notice of the resolution or decision of the Board shall be given to all parties through their counsel. A copy of the same shall be transmitted to the Supreme Court. (Sec. 12, Rule 139-B).
Sec. 15. Suspension of attorney by Supreme Court. C After receipt of respondent's answer or lapse of the period therefor, the Supreme Court, motu propio, or at the instance of the IBP Board of Governors upon the recommendation of the Investigator, may suspend an attorney from the practice of his profession for any of the causes specified in Rule 138, Section 27, during the pendency of the investigation until such suspension is lifted by the Supreme Court.
Sec. 16. Suspension of attorney by the Court of Appeals or a Regional Trial Court. C The Court of Appeals or Regional Trial Court may suspend an attorney from practice for any of the causes named in Rule 138, Section 27 2, until further action of the Supreme Court in the case.
Sec. 17. Upon suspension by Court of Appeals or Regional Trial Court, further proceedings in Supreme Court. C Upon such suspension, the Court of Appeals or a Regional Trial Court shall forthwith transmit to the Supreme Court a certified copy of the order of suspension and a full statement of the facts upon which the same was based. Upon receipt of such certified copy and statement, the Supreme Court shall make a full investigation of the case and may revoke, shorten or extend the suspension, or disbar the attorney as the facts may warrant.
Sec. 18. Confidentiality. C Proceedings against attorneys shall be private and confidential. However, the final order of the Supreme Court shall be published like its decisions in other cases.
The nine (9) IBP regions are:
(a) Northern Luzon, consisting of the provinces of Abra, Batanes, Benguet, Cagayan, Ifugao, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Isabela, Kalinga-Apayao, La Union, Mountain Province, Nueva Vizcaya, and Quirino.
(b) Central Luzon, consisting of the provinces of Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Tarlac, and Zambales;
(c) Greater Manila, consisting of the City of Manila and Quezon City;
(d) Southern Luzon, consisting of the provinces of Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Quezon, and Rizal;
(e) Bicolandia, consisting of the provinces of Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate, and Sorsogon;
(f) Eastern Visayas, consisting of the provinces of Bohol, Cebu, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar, Samar, and Southern Leyte;
(g) Western Visayas, consisting of the provinces of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Palawan, Romblon, and Siquijor.
(h) Eastern Mindanao, consisting of the provinces of Agusan del Norte, Agusan Del Sur, Bukidnon, Camiguin, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Misamis Oriental, Surigao del Norte, and Surigao del Sur; and
(i) Western Mindanao, consisting of the cities of Basilan and Zamboanga, and the provinces of Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Misamis Occidental, South Cotabato, Sulu, Zamboanga del Norte, and Zamboanga del Sur.
In the event of the creation of any new province, the Board of Governors shall, with the approval of the Supreme Court, determine the Region to which the said province shall belong.
A Chapter of the Integrated Bar shall be organized in every province. Except as provided in Rule 139-A of the Rules of Court, every city shall be considered part of the province within which it is geographically situated. (Sec. 4, Rule 139-A).
A separate Chapter shall be organized in each of the following political subdivisions or areas;
(a) The sub-province of Aurora;
(b) Each congressional district of the City of Manila;
(c) Quezon City;
(d) Caloocan City, Malabon and Navotas;
(e) Pasay City, Makati, Mandaluyong and San Juan del Monte (now Pasay Paranaque Las Pinas Muntinlupa);
(f) Cebu City; and
(g) Zamboanga City and Basilan City. (Sec. 4, Rule 139-A)
Unless he otherwise registers his preference for a particular Chapter, a lawyer shall be considered a member of the Chapter of the province, city, political subdivision or area where his office, or, in the absence thereof, his residence is located. In no case shall any lawyer be a member of more than one Chapter. (Sec. 4, Rule 139-A).
Each Chapter shall have its own local government as provided for by uniform rules to be prescribed by the Board of Governors and approved by the Supreme Court, the provisions of Section 19 of this Rule notwithstanding. (Sec. 4, Rule 139-A).
Chapters belonging to the same Region may hold regional conventions on matters and problems of common concern. (Sec. 4, Rule 139-A).
The Integrated Bar shall have a House of Delegates of not more than one hundred twenty members who shall be apportioned among all the Chapters as nearly as may be according to the number of their respective members, but each Chapter shall have at least one Delegate. On or before December 31, 1974, and every four years thereafter, the Board of Governors shall make an apportionment of Delegates. (Sec. 5, Rule 139-A).
The term of the office of Delegate shall begin on the date of the opening of the annual convention of the House and shall end on the day immediately preceding the date of the opening of the next succeeding annual convention. No person may be a Delegate for more than two terms. (Sec. 5, Rule 139-A).
The House shall hold an annual convention at the call of the Board of Governors at any time during the month of April of each year for the election of Governor, the reading and discussion of reports including the annual report of the Board of Governors, the transaction of such other business as may be referred to it by the Board, and the consideration of such additional matters as may be requested in writing by at least twenty Delegates. Special conventions of the House may be called by the Board of Governors to consider only such matters as the Board shall indicate. A majority of the Delegates who have registered for a convention, whether annual or special, shall constitute a quorum to do business. (Sec. 5, Rule 139-A).
The Integrated Bar shall be governed by a Board of Governors. Nine Governors shall be elected by the House of Delegates from the nine Regions on the representation basis of one Governor from each Region. Each Governor shall be chosen from a list of nominees submitted by the Delegates from the Region, provided that not more than one nominee shall come from any Chapter. The President and the Executive Vice President, if chosen by the Governors from outside of themselves as provided in Section 7 of this Rule, shall ipso facto become members of the Board. (Sec. 6, Rule 139-A).
The members of the Board shall hold office for a term of one year from the date of their election and until their successors shall have been duly elected and qualified. No person may be a Governor for more than two terms. (Sec. 6, Rule 139-A).
Subject to the approval of the Supreme Court, the Board shall adopt By-Laws and promulgate Canons of Professional Responsibility for all members of the Integrated Bar. The By-Laws and the Canons may be amended by the Supreme Court motu propio or upon the recommendation of the Board of Governors. (Sec. 6, Rule 139-A).
The Integrated Bar shall have a President and an Executive Vice President who shall be chosen by the Governors immediately after the latter's election, either from among themselves or from other members of the Integrated Bar, by the vote of at least five Governors. Each of the regional members of the Board shall be ex officio Vice President for the Region which he represents. (Sec. 7, Rule 139-A).
The President and the Executive Vice President shall hold office for a term of one year from the date of their election and until their successors shall have duly qualified. The Executive Vice President shall automatically become the President for the next succeeding full term. The Presidency shall rotate from year to year among all the nine Regions in such order or rotation as the Board of Governors shall prescribe. No person shall be President or Executive Vice President of the Integrated Bar for more than one term. (Sec. 7, Rule 139-A).
The Integrated Bar shall have a Secretary, a Treasurer, and such other officers and employees as may be required by the Board of Governors, to be appointed by the President with the consent of the Board, and to hold office at the pleasure of the Board or for such terms as it may fix. Said officers and employees need not be members of the Integrated Bar. (Sec. 7, Rule 139-A).
Except as may be specifically authorized or allowed by the Supreme Court, no Delegate or Governor and no national or local Officer or committee member shall receive any compensation, allowance or emolument from the funds of the Integrated Bar for any service rendered therein or be entitled to reimbursement for any expense incurred in the discharge of his functions. (Sec. 14, Rule 139-A).
A. Geographical Distribution of Filipino Lawyers
As of 1999 there were 40,461 lawyers in the Philippines, according to the records of the national office of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).
The lawyers were spread in nine (9) IBP regional chapters and eighty (80) IBP provincial and city chapters.
The IBP city chapters which geographically located in Metro Manila had a total membership of 18,234 lawyers as of the end of 1999, representing a huge 44.54 percent of the total number of lawyers in the Philippines.
In other words, two (2) out of every five (5) Filipino lawyers either reside or practice law in Metro Manila, showing a lopsided distribution of lawyers in the Philippines.
There are five (5) IBP regions in Luzon: Greater Manila (11,645), Southern Luzon (9,093), Central Luzon (3,751), Northern Luzon (2,705), and Bicolandia (1,659). Visayas and Mindanao each has only two (2) IBP regions.
There were 28,853 lawyers from Luzon (which included those registered as members of various Metro Manila chapters), as of the end of 1999, representing 71.31 percent of the total number of lawyers in the Philippines.
Two (2) out of every three (3) Filipino lawyers either reside or practice law in Luzon. This shows the lopsided distribution of Filipino lawyers in favor of Luzon.
The top three (3) IBP regions in the Philippines in terms of registered membership, as of the end of 1999, were the IBP Greater Manila Region (11,645), the IBP Southern Luzon Region (9,093), and the IBP Central Luzon Region (3,751).
In the IBP Northern Luzon Region, with a regional membership of 2,705 lawyers, the IBP Baguio City-Benguet Chapter ranked first among the thirteen (13) chapters in the region, with 631 lawyers (23.33 percent of the regional total), followed by the IBP Ilocos Norte Chapter (358), and the IBP Ilocos Sur Chapter (263). The provinces of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur accounted for 621 lawyers (22.96 percent of the regional total).
One (1) out of four (4) lawyers in Northern Luzon resides or practices law in the Baguio City-Benguet Area and roughly the same number of lawyers in Northern Luzon resides or practices law in the Ilocos Area.
In the IBP Central Luzon Region, with a regional membership of 3,751 lawyers, the IBP Pangasinan Chapter ranked first among the seven (7) chapters in the region, with 1,013 lawyers (27 percent of the regional total), followed by the IBP Bulacan Chapter (918), and the IBP Pampanga Chapter (593).
One (1) out of four (4) lawyers in Central Luzon resides or practices law in the Pangasinan or in Bulacan.
In the IBP Southern Luzon Region, with a regional membership of 9,093 lawyers, the IBP Makati City Chapter ranks first among the 12 chapters in the region, with 2,499 lawyers (27.48 percent of the regional total), followed by the IBP Pasay Paranaque Las Pinas Muntinlupa (PPLM) Chapter with 1,061 lawyers (11.67 percent of the regional total), and the IBP Kalookan Malabon Navotas Valenzuela (Kamanava) Chapter with 889 lawyers (9.78 percent of the regional total).
Roughly one (1) out of every three four (4) lawyers in the region either resides or practices law in Makati City.
In the IBP Bicolandia Region, with a regional membership of 1,659 lawyers (the lowest in Luzon) and with six (6) provincial chapters, the IBP Camarines Norte Sur Chapter (136) and the IBP Camarines Sur Chapter (651) accounted for a total of 787 lawyers or 47.43 percent of the regional total, followed by the IBP Albay Chapter with 442 lawyers or 26.64 percent of the regional total.
One (1) out of every two (2) lawyers in the region resides or practices law in the Camarines Area and one (1) out of every five (5) lawyers in the region resides or practices law in Albay.
2. Metro Manila
As earlier stated, the IBP city chapters geographically located in Metro Manila Area had a total membership of 18,0234 lawyers, representing a huge 44.54 percent or roughly one-half of the total number of lawyers in the Philippines. In other words, roughly one (1) out of every two (2) Filipino lawyers resides or practices law in Metro Manila. This shows the acutely lopsided distribution of private law practitioners in the Philippines.
The outdated circa-1970s regional categorization system of the IBP officially includes only the cities of Manila and Quezon City in the IBP AGreater Manila@ Region and excludes the rest of the highly urbanized cities and component municipalities of Metro Manila from the said region.
Manila and Quezon City had a membership of 11,645 as of the end of 1999 (28.78 percent of the total IBP membership in the Philippines). The IBP Quezon City Chapter had the biggest number of membership (6,233), followed by the four (4) IBP chapters in M
anila (5,412), the IBP Makati City Chapter (2,499), and the IBP Pasay Paranaque Las Pinas Muntinlupa (PPLM) Chapter (1,061).
The huge nine (9) Metro Manila cities and municipalities of Pasay, Paranaque, Las Pinas, Muntinlupa, Kalookan, Malabon, Navotas, Pasig, and Marikina are still classified under the IBP ASouthern Luzon@ Region. These cities, with a total IBP membership of 6,378 as of 1999, represented 70.14 percent of the total membership of the said region (9,093).
If we removed the IBP membership of these nine (9) Metro Manila cities and municipalities from the total membership count of the IBP Southern Luzon Region, the region would be left with a net membership of only 2,715 (29.86 percent), which was almost equal to that of the IBP Northern Luzon Region (2,705) and much lesser than those of the IBP Central Luzon Region (3,751), the IBP Eastern Visayas Region (3,651), and the IBP Western Visayas Region (3,378).
In Visayas there are only two (2) IBP regions, namely, the IBP Eastern Visayas Region and the IBP Western Visayas Region, each with nine (9) provincial chapters.
The IBP Eastern Visayas Region had a regional membership of 3,651 lawyers as of the end of 1999. The IBP Cebu Provincial Chapter and the IBP Cebu City Chapter accounted for 1,953 members or a huge 53.49 percent of the total regional membership. The IBP Cebu City Chapter alone had 1,306 members or 35.77 percent of the regional membership.
In other words, one (1) of every two (2) Eastern Visayan lawyers resides or practices law in Cebu. As in the case of Metro Manila, the distribution of lawyers in Visayas is lopsided.
The IBP Western Visayas Region had a regional membership of 3,378 lawyers as of the end of 1999 (lesser than the membership of the IBP Eastern Visayas Region by only 273). The top two (2) provincial chapters in the IBP Western Visayas Region were Negro Occidental (1,026) and Iloilo (984), with a difference of only 42 lawyers. Negros Occidental occupied 30.37 percent of the regional membership while Iloilo occupied 29.12 percent. Their combined total accounted for 59.50 percent of the regional lawyer population.
In other words, one (1) out of every three (3) lawyers in Western Visayas resides or practices law either in Negros Occidental or in Iloilo.
In Mindanao there are only two (2) IBP regions: the IBP Eastern Mindanao Region (with provincial chapters) and the IBP Western Mindanao Region (with eight  provincial chapters).
The IBP Eastern Mindanao Region had a regional membership of 2,362 lawyers as of the end of 1999. The IBP Davao City Chapter, with a membership of 878 lawyers, accounted for 37.17 percent of the region. It was followed by the IBP Misamis Oriental Chapter, with a membership of 596 or equivalent to 25.23 percent of the region.
If we combined the membership of the IBP Davao City Chapter (878) with those of the three (3) Davao provinces, namely, the IBP Davao del Norte Chapter (123), the IBP Davao de Sur Chapter (125), and the IBP Davao Oriental Chapter (59), their combined total would reach 1,185, representing a huge 50.16 percent of the membership of the region.
In other words, one (1) of every two (2) lawyers in Eastern Mindanao resides or practices law in the geographical Davao Area; one (1) out of every three (3) lawyers in Eastern Mindanao resides or practices law in Davao City; and one (1) out of every four (4) lawyers in Eastern Mindanao resides or practices law in Misamis Oriental.
The IBP Western Mindanao Region had a regional membership of 2,217 lawyers as of the end of 1999. The IBP Basilan-Zamboanga City-Sulu Chapter, with a membership of 354 lawyers, accounted for 15.97 percent of the region. It was followed by the IBP Cotabato Chapter, with a membership of 323 or equivalent to 14.57 percent of the region.
If we combined the numbers of lawyers in Zamboanga City, Zamboanga del Note and Zamboanga del Sure, their total would reach 818, representing 36.90 percent of the membership of the region.
In other words, one (1) of every three (3) lawyers in Western Mindanao resides or practices law in the geographical Zamboanga Area.
DISTRIBUTION OF LAWYER POPULATION
(As of 1999)
NUMBER OF LAWYERS
6. Ilocos Norte
7. Ilocos Sur
10. La Union
11. Mountain Province
12. Nueva Vizcaya
3. Nueva Ecija
1. Manila I
2. Manila II
3. Manila III
4. Manila IV
5. Quezon City
8. Occidental Mindoro
9. Oriental Mindoro
2. Camarines Norte
3. Camarines Sur
3. Cebu Province
4. Cebu City
5. Eastern Samar
7. Northern Samar
9. Southern Leyte
5. Negros Occidental
6. Negros Oriental
1. Agusan del Norte
2. Agusan del Sur
5. Davao City
6. Davao del Norte
7. Davao del Sur
8. Davao Oriental
9. Misamis Oriental
10. Surigao del Norte
11. Surigao del Sur
Grand Total (as of 1999)
Number of Regions
Number of Provincial and City Chapters
B. Judicial System
1. Congestion in the Courts
In 1991, 254, 976 cases were pending in the lower courts of the Philippines. During that year 330,171 new cases were filed. By the end of 1991, 255, 523 remained pending. The case disposition rate for 1991 was 39.70 percent. In 1992, the case disposition rate for lower courts was 37.94 percent. In 1993, it was 36.20 percent. Three years later, in 1996, the courts could only manage to dispose of only 27.45 percent of their pending cases. In 1999, 771, 337 cases were pending with the lower courts. With 558, 649 new cases to deal with in 1999, the lower courts managed to disposed of only 25.50 percent of their pending cases. In 2000, the caseload of lower courts was 801, 625 cases. Former Court Administrator Alfredo L. Benipayo attributed the congestion to Athe increased volume of new cases being filed and the large number of vacant judgeships@. (Justice Alfredo L. Benipayo, AThe Fair Cost of Justice@, speech delivered at the Annual National Convention of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines [IBP] 14th House of Delegates held at Crown Peak Garden Hotel, Subic, Olongapo City on May 27, 2000, 19 pp.).
The Philippines now needs 731 judges, distributed as follows: Regional Trial Courts - 192 Judges; Municipal Trial Courts - 33 Judges; Municipal Circuit Trial Courts - 263 Judges; Shar=ia District Courts - 3 Judges; and Shar=ia Circuit Courts - 32 Judges
Sen. Franklin Drilon has filed a bill exempting the salaries of judges from the Salary Standardization Law. It is aimed at increasing the salaries of judges to entice good private trial lawyers to join the judiciary. It may be approved into law anytime this year. (A. Calica, ADrilon : 731 Judges= Positions Vacant@, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Feb. 22, 2002, p. 1).
Figures from the Court Management Office of the Supreme Court=s Office of the Court Administrator showed that as of December 31, 2001, 33.94% of the total number of first and second level courts was vacant. (http://www.supremecourt.gov.ph).
First level courts include the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC), Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), MTC, Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) and Shari==a Circuit Court (SCC). Second level courts include the Regional Trial Court (RTC) and Shari==a District Court (SDC). (Id.).
The vacancy rate in the RTC in the same period was at 18.63%, with 177 of the 950 RTCs vacant, while four of the five SDCs were vacant. Meanwhile, 26.83% of the MeTC, 26.14% of the MTCC, 43.72% of the MTC and 56.21% of the MCTC were vacant. In the SCC, 62.75% or 32 of the 51 courts were vacant. (Id.).
Some 830,000 cases were gathering dust in the courts due to lack of personnel as of the end of 2001. Since 1998, only 123,842 of the 946,295 pending cases in different courts were resolved by lower courts. The culprits had always been the lack of judges and court personnel and their low salaries. The basic monthly salaries of judges from the Shari=a District Court (SDC) up to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) now range from P29,241.00 to P36,083.00. (Aurea Calica, AShortage of Court Personnel Stalling 830,000 Cases - Cayetano@, Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 2, 2002, p. 7).
In 1999 the share of the judiciary from the national budget was 1.07 percent (P6.25 Billion). In 2000, it went down to 0.95 percent (P6.27 Billion). (Benipayo, supra, p. 16). For 2002, its budget in peso terms is P7.11 Billion. (www.congress.gov.ph/ga, the website of the House of Representatives).
The low budget of the judiciary explains the low salaries of judges. In 2000, the gross monthly salary of a first-level judge (MTCs), inclusive of all allowances, was P33,599.00, while that of a second-level judge (RTCs) was P41,960.33. (Benipayo, supra, p. 11-12). Compare this with the starting salary offered by huge law firms and private business corporations to a young associate from a prestigious law school, which was about P30,000.00/month in 2000, and one readily sees the great disparity. (Id., p. 10).
Benipayo has advocated to double the gross salaries of first-level judges from P33,599.00 to P75,000.00 and those of the second-level judges from P41,960.33 to P80,000.00, which would mean exempting the judicial personnel from the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) and which would translate to P1.01 Billion in expenditure. (Id., pp. 15-16). To date, a number of government owned and controlled corporations enjoy exemption from the SSL, e.g. Government Service Insurance Corp. (GSIS), National Power Corp. (Napocor), Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC). (id., p. 17).
The dearth of judges has been a major problem of the Philippine justice system for many years. The editorial of the Philippine Star on February 23, 2002 reflected the public mood on the matter:
ANo wonder there is such a backlog of court cases. Records of the Department of Justice show that there are 731 vacancies for judges nationwide, with 263 needed for municipal circuit trial courts alone and 192 for regional trial courts. Even the Islamic Shar=ia courts need judges. Combined with delaying tactics routinely resorted to by lawyers, you can see why the wheels of justice grind excruciatingly slow in this country. Senate President Franklin Drilon, a former secretary of justice, thinks he knows the main reason for the dearth of judges: low pay. Drilon said the Senate is rushing approval of a bill that will exempt members of the judiciary from the Salary Standardization Law covering government workers. Many of the nation=s best and brightest enter the law profession, and a significant number of our national leaders are lawyers. The ranks of those who opt to enter public service, however, have dwindled over the years, due mainly to the unattractive pay. Law is not an easy course. You need four years of pre-law, another four years of law proper, and then another year for the bar examinations. Those nine years don=t come cheap. If a family scrimps to send at least one member to law school, that family will expect a return on investment as soon as the law student passes the bar exam. A career in the judiciary may look glamorous, but the pay scales generally can=t compete with those offered by the private sector. The poor pay makes members of the judiciary vulnerable to bribery. A few weeks= delay or a temporary restraining order can be highly profitable for a judge. There have been numerous reports that TROs are for sale even in higher courts. So-called hoodlums in robes compound the slow dispensation of justice, further eroding the credibility of the judiciary. This lack of faith in the judicial system is one reason Filipinos often prefer to take matters into their own hands, resorting to violence to settle grievances. The judiciary clearly needs to be strengthened and improved. If raising the pay of judges is one way of doing it, then that Senate bill must be passed as soon as possible@.
In 2000 the Integrated Bar of the Philippines adopted a resolution complaining
about the great delay in the adjudication of hundreds of cases pending with the
Sandiganbayan, especially in its First Division, headed by its Presiding Justice.
(Delon Porcalla, ALawyers Group Slams Sandigan for Delays in Cases@, The
Philippine Star, August 12, 2000, page 2). The Supreme Court ordered a judicial audit of the docket of the Sandiganbayan. It resulted in the relief of the Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Francis Garchitorena in November 2001. The ruling of the Supreme Court is extensively reproduced below:
ARE: PROBLEM OF DELAYS IN THE CASES BEFORE THE SANDIGANBAYAN, A. M. No. 00-8-05-SC, November 28, 2001.
We consider ex mero motu the Resolution of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) as an administrative complaint against Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena for Aserious delays in the decision of cases and in the resolution of motions and other pending incidents before the different divisions of the Sandiganbayan,@ amounting to incompetence, inefficiency, gross neglect of duty and misconduct in office.
We find no need to conduct a formal investigation of the charges in view of the admission of Justice Francis E. Garchitorena in his compliance of October 20, 2000, that there are indeed hundreds of cases pending decision beyond the reglementary period of ninety (90) days from their submission. In one case, he not only admitted the delay in deciding the case but took sole responsibility for such inaction for more than ten (10) years that constrained this Court to grant mandamus to dismiss the case against an accused to give substance and meaning to his constitutional right to speedy trial.
The issues presented are the following: (1) What is the reglementary period within which the Sandiganbayan must decide/resolve cases falling within its jurisdiction? (2) Are there cases submitted for decision remaining undecided by the Sandiganbayan or any of its divisions beyond the afore-stated reglementary period? (3) Is Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 1094 applicable to the Sandiganbayan?
1. Period To Decide/Resolve Cases.-- There are two views. The first view is that from the time a case is submitted for decision or resolution, the Sandiganbayan has twelve (12) months to decide or resolve it. The second view is that as a court with trial function, the Sandiganbayan has three (3) months to decide the case from the date of submission for decision.
Article VIII, Section 15 (1) and (2), of the 1987 Constitution provides:
"Sec. 15. (1) All cases or matters filed after the effectivity of this Constitution must be decided or resolved within twenty-four months from date of submission to the Supreme Court, and, unless reduced by the Supreme Court, twelve months for all lower collegiate courts, and three months for all other lower courts.
A(2) A case or matter shall be deemed submitted for decision or resolution upon the filing of the last pleading, brief or memorandum required by the Rules of Court or by the court itself.@
The above provision does not apply to the Sandiganbayan. The provision refers to regular courts of lower collegiate level that in the present hierarchy applies only to the Court of Appeals.
The Sandiganbayan is a special court of the same level as the Court of Appeals and possessing all the inherent powers of a court of justice, with functions of a trial court.
Thus, the Sandiganbayan is not a regular court but a special one.] The Sandiganbayan was originally empowered to promulgate its own rules of procedure. However, on March 30, 1995, Congress repealed the Sandiganbayan=s power to promulgate its own rules of procedure and instead prescribed that the Rules of Court promulgated by the Supreme Court shall apply to all cases and proceedings filed with the Sandiganbayan.
Special courts are judicial tribunals exercising limited jurisdiction over particular or specialized categories of actions. They are the Court of Tax Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, and the Shari=a Courts.
Under Article VIII, Section 5 (5) of the Constitution ARules of procedure of special courts and quasi-judicial bodies shall remain effective unless disapproved by the Supreme Court.@
In his report, the Court Administrator would distinguish between cases which the Sandiganbayan has cognizance of in its original jurisdiction,] and cases which fall within the appellate jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. The Court Administrator posits that since in the first class of cases, the Sandiganbayan acts more as a trial court, then for that classification of cases, the three (3) month reglementary period applies. For the second class of cases, the Sandiganbayan has the twelve-month reglementary period for collegiate courts. We do not agree.
The law creating the Sandiganbayan, P. D. No. 1606 is clear on this issue. It provides:
ASec. 6. Maximum period for termination of cases - As far as practicable, the trial of cases before the Sandiganbayan once commenced shall be con-tinuous until terminated and the judgment shall be rendered within three (3) months from the date the case was submitted for decision.@
On September 18, 1984, the Sandiganbayan promulgated its own rules, thus:
ASec. 3 Maximum Period to Decide Cases - The judgment or final order of a division of the Sandiganbayan shall be rendered within three (3) months from the date the case was submitted for decision (underscoring ours).@
Given the clarity of the rule that does not distinguish, we hold that the three (3) month period, not the twelve (12) month period, to decide cases applies to the Sandiganbayan. Furthermore, the Sandiganbayan presently sitting in five (5) divisions, functions as a trial court. The term Atrial@ is used in its broad sense, meaning, it allows introduction of evidence by the parties in the cases before it. The Sandiganbayan, in original cases within its jurisdiction, conducts trials, has the discretion to weigh the evidence of the parties, admit the evidence it regards as credible and reject that which they consider perjurious or fabricated.
In Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) v. Court of Appeals, the Court faulted the DARAB for violating its own rules of procedure. We reasoned that the DARAB does not have unfettered discretion to suspend its own rules. We stated that the DARAB Ashould have set the example of observance of orderly procedure.@ Otherwise, it would render its own Revised Rules of Procedure uncertain and whose permanence would be dependent upon the instability of its own whims and caprices.
Similarly, in Cabagnot v. Comelec, this Court held that the Commission on Elections ought to be the first one to observe its own Rules. Its departure from its own rules constitutes Aarrogance of power@ tantamount to abuse. Such inconsistency denigrates public trust in its objectivity and dependability. The Court reminded the Comelec to be more judicious in its actions and decisions and avoid imprudent volte-face moves that undermine the public's faith and confidence in it.
The ratio decidendi in the afore-cited cases applies mutatis mutandis to the Sandiganbayan. The Sandiganbayan ought to be the first to observe its own
rules. It cannot suspend its rules, or except a case from its operation.
2. Undecided Cases Beyond the Reglementary Period.-- We find that the Sandiganbayan has several cases undecided beyond the reglementary period set by the statutes and its own rules, some as long as more than ten (10) years ago. According to the compliance submitted by the Sandiganbayan, three hundred and forty one (341) cases were submitted for decision but were undecided as of September 15, 2000. A number of the cases were submitted for decision as far back as more than ten (10) years ago. xxxx.
The Sandiganbayan is a special court created Ain an effort to maintain honesty and efficiency in the bureaucracy, weed out misfits and undesirables in the government and eventually stamp out graft and corruption.@ We have held consistently that a delay of three (3) years in deciding a single case is inexcusably long. We can not accept the excuses of Presiding Justice Sandiganbayan Francis E. Garchitorena that the court was reorganized in 1997; that the new justices had to undergo an orientation and that the Sandiganbayan relocated to its present premises which required the packing and crating of records; and that some boxes were still unopened.
We likewise find unacceptable Presiding Justice Garchitorena=s excuse that one case alone] comprises more that fifty percent (50%) of the First Division=s backlog and that the same has been set for promulgation on December 8, 2000. As we said, a delay in a single case cannot be tolerated, Apara muestra, basta un boton.@ (for an example, one button suffices). It is admitted that there are several other cases submitted for decision as far back as ten (10) years ago that have remained undecided by the First Division, of which Justice Garchitorena is presiding justice and chairman. Indeed, there is even one case, which is a simple motion to withdraw the information filed by the prosecutor. This has remained unresolved for more than seven (7) years (since 1994). The compliance submitted by the Sandiganbayan presiding justice incriminates him. The memorandum submitted by the Court Administrator likewise testifies to the unacceptable situation in the Sandiganbayan. Indeed, there is a disparity in the reports submitted by the Sandiganbayan presiding justice and the OCA. xxxx.
We find that Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena failed to devise an efficient recording and filing system to enable him to monitor the flow of cases and to manage their speedy and timely disposition. This is his duty on which he failed.
3. Applicability of SC Adm. Circular No. 10-94.-- Supreme Court Circular No. 10-94 applies to the Sandiganbayan. x x x.
We reiterate the admonition we issued in our resolution of October 10, 2000:
AThis Court has consistently impressed upon judges (which includes justices) to decide cases promptly and expeditiously on the principle that justice delayed is justice denied. Decision making is the primordial and most important duty of the member of the bench. Hence, judges are enjoined to decide cases with dispatch. Their failure to do so constitutes gross inefficiency that warrants disciplinary sanction , including fine, suspension and even dismissal. The rule particularly applies to justices of the Sandiganbayan. Delays in the disposition of cases erode the faith and confidence of our people in the judiciary, lower its standards, and bring it into disrepute. Delays cannot be sanctioned or tolerated especially in the anti-graft court, the showcase of the nation=s determination to succeed in its war against graft (underscoring ours).@
In Yuchengco v. Republic, we urged the Sandiganbayan to promptly administer justice. We stated that the Sandiganbayan has the inherent power to amend and control its processes and orders to make them conformable to law and justice. The Sandiganbayan as the nation=s anti-graft court must be the first to avert opportunities for graft, uphold the right of all persons to a speedy disposition of their cases and avert the precipitate loss of their rights.
At this juncture, the Court cites the case of Canson v. Garchitorena. In that case, we admonished respondent Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena. General Jewel F. Canson, Police Chief Superintendent, National Capital Region Command Director, complained of deliberate delayed action of the Presiding Justice on the transfer of Criminal Cases Nos. 23047-23057 to the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, depriving complainant of his right to a just and speedy trial. Due to a finding of lack of bad faith on the part of respondent justice, we issued only a warning. However, the dispositive portion of the decision cautioned respondent justice that Aa repetition of the same or similar act in the future shall be dealt with more severely.@
Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena sits as the Chairman, First Division, with a backlog of cases pending decision. At least seventy-three cases have been unassigned for the writing of the extended opinion, though submitted for decision. It may be the thinking of the Presiding Justice, Sandiganbayan that an unassigned case is not counted in its backlog of undecided cases. This is not correct. It is the duty of the Presiding Justice and the Chairmen of divisions to assign the ponente as soon as the case is declared submitted for decision, if not earlier. If he fails to make the assignment, he shall be deemed to be the ponente.
The Constitution provides that a case shall be deemed submitted for decision or resolution upon the filing of the last pleading, brief, or memorandum required by the Rules of Court or by the court itself. In Administrative Circular No. 28, dated July 3, 1989, the Supreme Court provided that AA case is considered submitted for decision upon the admission of the evidence of the parties at the termination of the trial. The ninety (90) days period for deciding the case shall commence to run from submission of the case for decision without memoranda; in case the court requires or allows its filing, the case shall be considered submitted for decision upon the filing of the last memorandum or the expiration of the period to do so, whichever is earlier. Lack of transcript of stenographic notes shall not be a valid reason to interrupt or suspend the period for deciding the case unless the case was previously heard by another judge not the deciding judge in which case the latter shall have the full period of ninety (90) days from the completion of the transcripts within which to decide the same.@ The designation of a ponente to a case is not a difficult administrative task.
Administrative sanctions must be imposed. AMora reprobatur in lege.@ Again, we reiterate the principle that decision-making is the most important of all judicial functions and responsibilities. In this area, Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena, as the ponente assigned to the cases submitted for decision/resolution long ago, some as far back as more than ten (10) years ago, has been remiss constituting gross neglect of duty and inefficiency. As we said in Canson, unreasonable delay of a judge in resolving a case amounts to a denial of justice, bringing the Sandiganbayan into disrepute, eroding the public faith and confidence in the judiciary.
Consequently, Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena should be relieved of all trial and administrative work as Presiding Justice and as Chairman, First Division so that he can devote himself full time to decision-making until his backlog is cleared. He shall finish this assignment not later than six (6) months from the promulgation of this resolution.
We have, in cases where trial court judges failed to decide even a single case within the ninety (90) day period, imposed a fine ranging from five thousand pesos (
P5,000.00) to the equivalent of their one month=s salary. According to the report of the Sandiganbayan, as of September 26, 2000, there were three hundred forty one (341) cases submitted for decision before its first division headed by the Presiding Justice. In the memorandum of the OCA, there were one hundred ninety eight (198) cases reported submitted for decision before the First Division. Even in the updated report, there are one hundred thirty eight (138) cases still undecided in the First Division.
In fact, Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena admitted that he has a backlog. He claimed that one (1) case alone comprises fifty percent (50%) of the backlog. We find this claim exaggerated. We cannot accept that a backlog of three hundred forty one (341) cases in the First Division could be eliminated by the resolution of a single consolidated case of one hundred fifty six (156) counts. A consolidated case is considered only as one case. The cases referred to were consolidated as Criminal Case Nos. 9812-9967, People v. Corazon Gammad-Leaño, decided on December 8, 2000. What about the one hundred eighty five (185) cases that unfortunately remained undecided to this date? Worse, the motion for reconsideration of the decision in said cases, submitted as of January 11, 2001, has not been resolved to this date. The First Division has only thirty (30) days from submission to resolve the same. It is now ten (10) months from submission. The expediente and the motion were transmitted to the ponente, Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena, on that date, but to this day the case remains unresolved. Unfortunately, even other divisions of the Sandiganbayan may be following his example.
In the first report of the Court Administrator, he indicated a total of one hundred ninety five (195) criminal cases and three (3) civil cases, or a total of one hundred ninety eight (198) cases submitted for decision as of December 21, 2000. Almost a year later, as of November 16, 2001, there are still one hundred thirty eight (138) cases undecided submitted long ago. For almost one year, not one case was decided/resolved by the Presiding Justice himself.
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the Court resolves:
(1) To IMPOSE on Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena a fine of twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00), for inefficiency and gross neglect of duty.
In the interim, Associate Justice Minita V. Chico-Nazario, as the most senior associate justice, shall TAKE OVER and exercise the powers, functions, and duties of the office of the Presiding Justice, Sandiganbayan, until further orders from this Court.
(3) To DIRECT Presiding Justice Francis E. Garchitorena and the associate justices of the Sandiganbayan to decide/resolve the undecided cases submitted for decision as of this date, within three (3) months from their submission, and to resolve motions for new trial or reconsiderations and petitions for review within thirty (30) days from their submission. With respect to the backlog of cases, as hereinabove enumerated, the Sandiganbayan shall decide/resolve all pending cases including incidents therein within six (6) months from notice of this resolution.
(4) To ORDER the Sandiganbayan to comply with Supreme Court Administrative Circular 10-94, effective immediately.
(5) To DIRECT the Sandiganbayan en banc to adopt not later than December 31, 2001 internal rules to govern the allotment of cases among the divisions, the rotation of justices among them and other matters leading to the internal operation of the court, and thereafter to submit the said internal rules to the Supreme Court for its approval.
This directive is immediately executory@. (End of Quote).
------ * -------
2. Speeding Up the Quality of Justice
Justice Artemio V. Panganiban, Chairman of the Supreme Court Committee on Public Information, has classified the causes of judicial delays into systemic and man-made. (Artemio V. Panganiban, ASpeeding Up the Quality of Justice@, Manila Bulletin, Augut 20, 2000, page 11 and 18).
According to Justice Panganiban, the systemic causes of court delays may be attributed to the following:
1. The very nature of our adversarial system requires due process and deliberation before judicial decisions can be rendered. ADue process, translated into court mechanics, require among others: (a) the proper issuance and service of summons and subpoenas, (b) the grant of fixed periods within which to answer complaints and charges, (c) the conduct of trials with the assistance of lawyers, (d) the tedious process of examining and cross-examining witnesses in open court, (e) the formulation of a set of rules to determine the admissibility and the weight of evidence, and (f) the rendering of neatly composed decisions which must be personally written by judges and which must state the facts and the law upon which they are based. All these mechanics take time@. (id., p. 11).
2. During judicial proceedings great care is observed in safeguarding the constitutional rights of the parties. AThus, evidence, even if it incriminates the accused, cannot be admitted or accepted if procured with the use of force, fraud, fear or instigation. Our system of criminal justice recognizes the Miranda doctrine, e specially the rights to remain silent during custodial investigation by police authorities and to be assisted at all times by competent and independent counsel. Due process and constitutional rights are essential ingredients of quality justice and cannot be dispensed with, unless voluntarily waived by the party they are intended to protect@. (id., pp. 11 and 18).
3. Our appellate system is open-ended. ATaking advantage of this liberality, litigants refuse to surrender and tenaciously pursue their appeals all the way up to the Highest Court. Sometimes reaching the Supreme Court is the review of cases involving the collection of even a few hundred pesos, the ejectment of a persistent tenant, the illegal dismissal of a clerk, the slander by a cantankerous woman, or the election protest of a barangay chairman@. (id., p. 18).
4. Due to Batas Pambansa (BP) Blg. 22, the Bouncing Checks Law, collection cases flood our first-level courts. ABanks, financial institutions and even ordinary creditors make use of our criminal law system as an agency for the collection of bounced checks. Because of this, it is not uncommon to find a trial court saddled with 6,000 pending cases of rubber checks alone@. (id.).
5. The automatic appeals to the Supreme Court of death penalties imposed by trial courts Anumber about 1,500 at present, and counting@. The High Tribunal cannot refuse appeals of criminal cases in which the penalty imposed is reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment. The total number of appeals pending in the Supreme Court involving death penalties, reclusion perpetua and life imprisonment is 3,000. (id.).
6. Apart from reviewing lower court decisions, the Supreme Court also handles appeals of decisions issued by other constitutional bodies like the Commission on Elections, Commission on Audit and the Ombudsman. (id.).
7. In addition to hearing and deciding judicial cases, the Supreme Court also adjudicates complaints against lower court magistrates and lawyers. Under the Constitution, it has administrative power over all courts and lawyers. (id.).
According to Justice Panganiban, the man-made delays are sourced from (1) the judges, (2) the litigants, or (3) the court officials supervising judges and other judicial personnel:
1. Some judges who are Aunfamiliar with the rules of procedure or evidence are unable to control proceedings in their salas, resulting in unnecessary recourse to higher courts, judt for the correction of simple errors@. For example, Aerroneous grants and denials of bail in capital offenses or erroneous dismissals due to simple lapses in procedure tend to unduly clog appellate dockets and delay the final disposition of the merits of the cases below@. (id.).
2. Sometimes delays are caused by Alazy and inept, not to say corrupt, judges who frequently absent themselves from work, arrive in their salas late, or fail to issue orders and judgments within the reglementary period@. (id.).
3. Also contributing to the delay in no small measure are the unfilled vacancies in the judiciary. About 33 percent of all trial court salas are vacant because of the lack of qualified applicants. ABrilliant, ethical and diligent lawyers oftentimes shun appointments as magistrates because of the pitifully low compensation and the sometimes unstable peace and order condition in outlying stations@. (id.).
4. The litigants themselves, particularly lawyers, also cause delays. They are able Ato use, misuse and abuse@ the Rules of Court to defeat the very objective of our legal system which is fair, speedy and adequate justice for all. AKnowing that their cases are weak, they resort to all sorts of dilatory tactics in the hope of tiring out, discouraging or bankrupting their opponents@. (id.).
Justice Panganiban has made the following recommendations to solve the problem of judicial delay:
1. Reforms in law schools, law school curricula, and bar examinations. - ALaw students must be well-prepared by law schools, which, in turn, must be manned by competent and dedicated professors and administrators@. According to Justice Panganiban, the Supreme Court plans to set up a private foundation to recruit and adequately compensate full-time law professors who will teach in various law schools, as well as to provide scholarships to deserving but poor law students. The Court has created a standing Committee on Legal Education and a Study Group on Bar Reforms made up of retired justices to recommend changes in the admission of new lawyers. (id.).
2. The need to select the best and the brightest lawyers for appointment to the judiciary. - The Constitution mandates the Judicial and Bar Council to screen and then recommend applicants for judicial appointment by the President of the Philippines. AThe JBC has gone to great lengths, within its limited resources, to ensure the selection of qualified nominees, free of political interference@. After appointment to their respective posts, Ajudges still need continuing education, both intellectual and ethical@. Hence, the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA) was established by Republic Act No. 8557. It is headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Ameurfina A. Melencio-Herrera. It sponsors week-long seminars at its still-inadequate facilities in Tagaytay City. It needs Asome P500 Million to construct its physical plant and to enable it to conduct year-long judicial courses, not just short seminars@. Incidentally, under the PHILJA charter (R.A. 8557), Aeffective January 1, 2001, applicants for appointment or promotion to the judiciary must, before being screened by the JBC, satisfactorily pass a PHILJA Pre-Judicature Course@. (id.).
3. Judicial compensation must be rationalized and judicial fiscal independence preserved. - To rationalize judicial compensation, the judiciary needs to be Afreed from the Salary Standardization Law, which was intended mainly for officers and employees of the executive department@. Further, there is a need to Aaccord the judiciary real fiscal independence@. It may be realized by granting the Supreme Court Aa lumpsum appropriation of a fixed percentage of the national budget (say, two percent) to be allocated in detail, no longer by Congress, but by the Court itself@. The normal budgetary share of the judiciary is about one percent of the national budget. The Supreme Court has to Alobby yearly in Congress to be able to keep up with the price increases due to inflation@.
4. The need to look into the judicial disciplinary process. - From 1998 to 2000, the Supreme Court has dismissed Amore than 40 judges for corruption, gross misconduct, dishonesty and other serious offenses@. It has also Asuspended or fined judges twice that number for lesser infractions@. While an administrative case is pending, a judge is ineligible for promotion or retirement benefits. Low compensation and unduly long and strict disciplinary process, Awherein both frivolous and meritorious complaints are treated alike@, are debilitating to judges. (id.).
In connection with the efforts of the Supreme Court to aggressively address the perceived corruption in the judiciary by ridding its ranks of corrupt, incompetent and inefficient members, Ismael G. Khan Jr., the assistant court administrator and chief public information officer of the Supreme Court, has reported that from 1999 until early 2002, Aa total of 352 judges have already felt the wrath of the Supreme Court@; and that during the said period, A22 had been dismissed from the service, including an associate justice of the Court of Appeals, 19 had been relieved or suspended, including two Sandiganbayan justices, 43 had been reprimanded, and 189 had been fined@. Khan added that the Supreme Court Agives no quarters in its fight against graft and corruption to purge the Bench and the Bar of abusive members because the Filipino people certainly deserve nothing less than a clean and efficient judiciary@. He further stated that Athe Supreme Court, through its Action Program for Judicial Reform (APJR), is actively pursuing far-reaching measures to reform the judicial system so that it may function effectively to enhance the citizenry=s trust and confidence in the judicial system and its institutions@. (Ismael G. Khan Jr., ASupreme Court Battling Corruption@, Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 29,2002, p. A10).
Executive Secretary Alberto G. Romulo, in his article entitled AReforming Our Justice System@ (The Philippine Star, March 13, 2002, page 6), had the occasion to share his views on the issues of judicial delay and corruption:
A... For honor and integrity should be the bedrock of a public official=s character, much more in the courts and in particular the highest court.
For true and honorable public servants are those who put character and virtue above lucre or loot, who cannot be bought or cowed, who stand for honor and principle at all time no matter how old fashioned or unpopular.
In the Supreme Court and the lower courts, character must indeed go hand in hand with erudition and learning.
For all of us here, the time is long overdue to clean up the judicial system=s augean stable and to put a stop to incompetents and crooks in the courts.
...To safeguard judicial appointments from lobbying that attends major political appointments, the 1987 Charter created a Judicial and Bar Council...whose principal function is to recommend nominees to the judiciary. (Sections 8 and 9, Article VIII, 1987 Constitution).
...Consider the World Bank Report (issued in late 2000), on the Philippines which notes that >there is widespread concern, domestically and internationally, that Philippine courts do a poor job of upholding the rule of law, and thereby debilitate efforts to improve development policy framework=.
Two issues B in the World Bank=s view B warrant national attention: lengthy delays in resolving civil and criminal cases (the court backlog increased from about 300,000 in 1992 to about 650,000 cases in 1998); and >unpredictable results when a decision is finally reached=.
...Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency@. (Article XI, Accountability of Public Officers, 1987 Constitution. See also Art. VIII).@
At this point, perhaps it is useful to state the Alaw is a mystery to many Filipinos@. This complex situation gave rise to the need to "popularize the law". In the 1980s the UP Law Center launched a series of "programs in legal literacy, street law, or practical law" in cooperation with women's non-governmental organizations (NGOs), student organizations, and the local barangays (barangay legal education seminars).
Certain sectors of society have urged the Filipinization of the law (curriculum, textbooks, laws, court decisions). In other countries the popularization of laws in the native tongues was a normal rule, such as, for instance, in Indonesia where its national language, Bahasa Indonesia, is the official medium of instruction in law schools, and where "the enshrinement of customary law is part of the legal system". In the words of former Supreme Court Justice Irene Cortez, who once served as the dean of the UP College of Law: "Where law is written and taught in a foreign language, it becomes more esoteric, its concepts more difficult to assimilate and retain. If it is difficult for those who undergo the professional training for lawyers, it would be even more difficult for the ordinary citizen. There are those of us in the Philippines who have begun to give serious thought to using our own language in legal education". (Justice Irene R. Cortez, AEducation in the Law: Philippines Experience" in Coquia, Jose R. The Legal Profession. Manila: Rex Book Store, 1993ed., pp. 21-29).
C. Economic Difficulties Faced by Filipino Law Practitioners
The Philippine economy is too small and undeveloped a market as to allow Filipino legal professionals, especially the solo law practitioners and small to medium law firms, to achieve and enjoy a truly progressive, prosperous and financially rewarding law practice on a level that produces the benefits of the economies of scale.
Competition is fierce among urban-based solo practitioners and between and among small to medium law firms, on one hand, and the big full-service law firms, on the other, especially those located in Metro Manila and other major cities, like Cebu City in Visayas and Davao City in Mindanao.
Inflationary pressures on overhead costs and related professional expenses of law firms and solo practitioners have compelled them to increase their professional fees such that even middle-income Filipinos in the cities can hardly afford to retain the legal services of city lawyers to serve the routine and special legal needs of their businesses, professions and families.
(Based on the personal experience of the author as a private trial lawyer, law professor, director of the IBP Pasay Paranaque Las Pinas Muntinlupa [PPLM] Chapter, and convenor-president of the Las Pinas City Bar Association, considering the high law office overhead costs and case management costs at present, it appears that a Metro Manila-based solo practitioner=s or a small law firm=s current minimum billing at the trial court level for acceptance fee averages at P50,000.00 per case, which is normally paid in cash or paid on installment basis within 30 to 60 days from the date of engagement of the legal services of the lawyer or law firm, plus an appearance fee, the current minimum amount of which averages at P3,000.00 per hearing, exclusive (a) of filing and docket fees and other incidental official court fees and assessments, which, incidentally, have likewise increased pursuant to the recent amendments to Rule 141 of the Revised Rules of Court adopted by the Supreme Court in 2000, and (b) an additional premium fee of 10 percent of the recovery in some instances, depending on the terms and conditions of the specific fee agreement with the client, e.g., where such a premium fee is justified and covenanted by the lawyer and the client because the case is perceived to be complex, novel or difficult, the case is controversial and might reduce the prospects of new business for the lawyer or law firm, the case involves a huge amount, the nature and results of the case are of great importance to the personal and business priorities of the client, the lawyer or law firm has a good reputation for wide experience, competence and excellence, or additional specialized support office staff and field personnel and costly equipment, technology or materials are expected to be utilized by the lawyer or law firm in the course of the legal representation).
It appears that the Philippines, which has a population of roughly 80 million and about 41,500 lawyers, has a ratio of one lawyer for every 1,950 Filipinos, and that Metro Manila, which has a population of roughly 10 million and about 18,250 lawyers (representing 44.54 of all lawyers in the country), has a ratio of one lawyer for every 548 Filipinos. And yet it is morally anomalous and paradoxical that there are still certain rural towns and barangays in the Philippines, including those that may even be classified as >suburbs= of component cities in the provinces, notably those situated in Visayas and Mindanao, which are without any private law practitioner or private trial lawyer who could directly serve their day-to-day legal needs and litigation requirements, for which reason the people in such areas are constrained to rely heavily on the law personnel of the local trial courts, the local government units, and the provincial political and business leaders, for some form of limited assistance to fulfill such legal needs.
It is noted that the presence of law and human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in these areas appears to be limited for lack of funds and personnel B despite the efforts of the private corporate sector to expand its financial support to such NGOs in line with the prevailing philosophy of Acorporate citizenship@ B unlike in the case of Metro Manila, Cebu City and Davao City where such presence is highly visible.
The unspectacular economic performance of the Philippine economy at present and the currently anemic performance of the world economy and the Asian regional economy, which followed the devastating and widely publicized terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center in New York in September 2001, have aggravated the fierce competition among Filipino law professionals and have generally contributed to their diminished income due to reduced volume of legal business and increased overhead and operating costs. Moreover, the recently published Philippine economic data as of the end of the first quarter of 2002, infra, have been discouraging to the legal services sector (and to all economic sectors, for that matter).
The prevailing domestic political instability, weak civil-service governance, communist and Muslim insurgency problem, kidnappings, high crime rate, lack of foreign investor confidence, poor physical and technological infrastructures, graft and corruption, labor unrest, unsatisfactory and inadequate delivery of basic social services, economic oligarchy, inequitable wealth distribution, undeveloped middle class, huge foreign debt, and low purchasing power of Filipinos due to widespread poverty have aggravated the economic problems being faced by self-employed Filipino legal professionals.
For instance, as of the end of the first quarter of 2002, published Philippine economic data showed that the national unemployment rate was 13.9 percent (4.87 million Filipinos out of a total labor force of 35.1 million); that the unemployment rate in Metro Manila was a 20.3 percent (equivalent to one million unemployed Filipinos in Metro Manila); that the national underemployment rate was 19.6 percent (equivalent to 5.9 million Filipinos); that the said high unemployment and underemployment rates occurred despite a 3.8 percent growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the said quarter (showing that the national economy has failed to produce enough jobs for its rapidly expanding labor force, whose number of new entrants annually increases by about 600,000 considering our annual population growth rate of 2.3 percent, lending credit to the argument that the distribution of economic wealth in the country is skewed
and inequitable due to the age-old concentration of corporate wealth and political influence in the hands of a very few multi-billionaire oligarchic families and their foreign partners); and that, for the said quarter, the services sector grew by 4.8 percent, the agriculture sector by 4.4 percent, and the industry sector by a 1.9 percent. (Doris Dumlao, A4.87M Filipinos Have No Jobs - NSO@, Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 18, 2002, page A2; Ted P. Torres, AGovernment to Cut Expenditures to Meet Budget Deficit Target@, The Philippine Star, June 20, 2002, page B-1).
The national government posted a budget deficit of P82.694 Billion in the first four months of 2002, around 64 percent of its full-year 2002 budget deficit target of P130 Billion; that the external debt of the country as of the end of the said quarter was US $53.4 Billion, 65.4 percent of which consisted of public sector debt; that although the balance of payment for the said quarter showed a surplus of US $2.157 Billion, a great part of which was actually attributable to dollar remittances from overseas Filipino workers, and that although the current account yielded a surplus of US $2.323 Billion and the gross international reserves reached nearly US $17.4 Billion, export receipts for the same period dropped by 6.4 percent and import receipts by 7.9 percent . (Doris C. Dumlao, AExternal Debt Up $1B to $53.4B in Q1", Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 22, 2002, p. B2; and Clarissa S. Batino, ABOP Surplus Posts Surplus of $2B@, Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 22, 2002, p. B2).
Although the National Statistics Office (NSO) has reported that the country=s key manufacturing output surged by 17 percent in April 2002 from a year ago to post the best performance in five years, reversing the 1.6 percent contraction recorded in March 2002 and suggesting a rebound in the industrial sector that was hit hard by the US-led global downturn in 2001, at the same time, the Board of Investments (BOI) and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) have reported that investments registered with their offices had plunged sharply in the first five months of 2002 as investor confidence in the country continued to wane. The BOI reported that registered investments dropped 64.26 percent to P11.81 Billion from January to May 2002 from P33.04 Billion during the same period in 2001. The PEZA had a bigger investment tally than the BOI registered during the period but this was 20.43 percent lower than the P18.6 Billion chalked up in 2001. (Doris C. Dumlao, AManufacturing Growth Hits 5-Year High@, Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 28, 2002, page B1; Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., ABOI, PEZA Investments Down in First Five Months@, Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 28, 2002, page B1).
Loans extended by commercial banks grew by only 0.40 percent or P5.83 Billion in April 2002 from the previous month=s level. The P2.418 Trillion lent by banks in April 2002 was still 2.2 percent short of the P1.45 Trillion extended by banks in the same month of 2001. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has said that the banks= high level of soured loans was holding them back from lending more actively. The banks had to preserve their Aasset quality@ given their huge non-performing loans. The bad loans of commercial banks as of April 2002 stood at 18.23 percent. Bank lending remained low despite the prevailing low rate environment brought about by the cut in the BSP=s overnight borrowing and lending rates in March 2002 to their 10-year lows of 7 percent and 9.25 percent, respectively. The BSP has also reported that the local industries= huge spare capacity, particularly in the manufacturing sector, curbed demand for fresh bank financing. The average capacity utilization by the manufacturing sector stood at 75.6 percent as of March 2002. (Clarissa S. Batino, ABanks Still Reluctant to Lend@, Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 26, 2002, page B5).
The world economic outlook for 2002-2003 does not appear to be dramatically encouraging, too. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs has reported in June 2002 that the world economic recovery, while stronger than expected in January 2002, would be slow and uneven and could be set back by conflicts in the middle East and Asia. Helped by strong growth in a resurgent United States, the world=s economy would grow about 1.75 percent in 2002 and 3.25 percent in 2003. In 2001 the world economy grew by only 1.3 percent, the lowest in a decade. The UN warned that recovery in 2002-2003 would not be as fast or widespread. It also reported that world trade, measured as the volume of exports across the world, would also recover in 2002, growing 2.25 percent in 2002 and 6 percent in 2003. It added that in terms of gross domestic product, developed countries could expect only modest recovery this year, while economies in transition would see continued lower growth rates. (Reuters, AGlobal Economic Recovery Will Be Slow, Uneven B UN@, Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 28, 2002, page B17).
It is not surprising, therefore, that the results of a survey conducted in March-April 2002 by Pulse Asia showed that the number of Filipinos who wanted to migrate overseas had increased during the past decade and that one in very five Filipinos now wants to join the exodus because he sees no hope in the country, compared to 14 percent prior to June 2001. The impulse to migrate is stronger among the ABC socio-economic class (31 percent), compared to 12 percent in the poorest and least educated E class. The feeling of hopelessness is highest in Metro Manila at 26 percent, or 7 percentage points higher that the national average. This despite the good news that the inflation rate in the country averaged at 3.6 percent in the first five months of 2002, which was well within the target of 4.5 to 5.5 percent for the year. (Editorial, Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 27, 2002, page A6; Clarissa S. Batino, ABSP Expects June Inflation to Remain Stable at 3.4 - 3.7%@, Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 5, 2002, p. B5).
In May-June 2001 Prof. J. V. Abueva of the University of the Philippines published the findings of a survey he had conducted in November 2001. One important result stood out in that survey. A high percentage of Filipinos (43 percent) disagreed with the statement that they are satisfied with the way democracy works in the country, with only 34 percent agreeing. While 72 percent of the respondents agreed that democracy Ais the best political system in all circumstances@, 72 percent also were concerned about Athe possibility that Filipinos will completely lose faith in peaceful means of promoting democracy@. After two EDSAs (people power revolts) and four post-Marcos presidents, AFilipinos are still hopeless@. (Id.).
It is estimated that there are about 7.4 million Filipinos living overseas, either as contract workers or permanent migrants. (Id.). The Commission on Filipino Overseas has reported that, according to its 2000 survey, there were 4.8 million Filipinos deployed overseas. Close to 2,500 Filipinos leave the country everyday to seek employment or to migrate elsewhere, according to the Department of Labor and Employment. They have become a big source of foreign exchange for the country. In 2001, they remitted some US $6.2 Billion into the country. Because of the inability of the local economy to absorb its huge labor force, the Philippine Government appears to have encouraged the export of Philippine labor, despite the social costs. (AAsia Pulse Survey - 19% of Pinoys Want to Leave, Says RP Hopeless@, Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 26, 2002, page 1). On the same day that the foregoing statistics appeared in the newspapers, 63 Filipinos were being deported back to the Philippines by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service for violation of US immigration laws. (Tonette Orejas, ASad Homecoming for 63 Filipinos Deported by US@, Philippine Daily Inquirer, page 1).
The Commission on Population (POPCOM) has reported that the present population of the Philippines is 80 million and that 32 million (40 percent) thereof are considered poor, that is, earning less than P38.00 a day, the poverty threshold set by the government. (APopcom Report: RP Population Hits 80M; 32M are Poor@, Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 5, 2002, pp. A1, 19).
A survey conducted in May-June 2002 by the Social Weather Station (SWS) showed that only one out of three Filipinos was satisfied with the way democracy was working in the country. The 35 percent satisfaction rating was the lowest since the SWS started monitoring in 1992 the people=s satisfaction with the workings of Philippine democracy. The survey showed, however, that 74 percent of the respondents said they were Avery proud@ to be Filipinos, up from 68 percent in March 2002, and 91 percent said they would still choose to be Filipino citizens even if given the chance to choose their nationality. (Blanche S. Rivera, AOnly 1 of 3 Pinoys Satisfied with RP Democracy B SWS@, Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 5, 2002, p. A1, 19).
In the long run, the Filipinos= ambivalent, low, self-defeating perception of themselves and of the Philippine democracy and economy will show their demoralizing and injurious socio-psychological and political implications to the legal profession, the rule of law and the administration of justice in the country.
D. The Internet and the Filipino Lawyer
1. Poor Presence in the Internet
Despite the passage of the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000 (E-Commerce Act) and the 2001 Rules of Electronic Evidence, the Philippine legal profession appears to lag behind its counterpart in America insofar as the use of and investment in modern information and communication technology, law software and the Internet are concerned in effectively marketing its services to Filipino and international consumers of legal services, improving the internal operations, case management systems and document and information database systems of Philippine law firms, developing a body of cost-effective, systematic, speedy, accountable, transparent and responsive litigation management practices, and providing the general public with transactional or interactive pro bono and speedy legal advice and assistance through the modern information superhighway.
The Philippine Government apparently has a poor presence in the Internet, which is an effective, cost-effective and modern technological tool to reach the people, render prompt services and information, and improve transparency, accountability and responsiveness in public administration. It must be remembered that the National Government, being the main producer, source, disseminator, evaluator, custodian , implementor and protector of the law, must take the lead in the optimal use of modern information and communication technology (ICT) in line with the philosophy of good, accountable, and transparent governance and as a major facet of its constitutionally mandated mission to promote the rule of law and the administration of justice in the country.
Under the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000, the three branches of Government were given two years from the passage of the law Ato install an electronic online network, the RPWeb and a domestic internet exchange system to implement the shift to electronic technology...so that they would all be linked to one another for greater coordination and effectivity@. (Belinda Olivares-Cunanan, AGovernment Offices Way Below Par in Computerization@, Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 3, 2002, p. A9).
A survey conducted by the National Computer Center in 2001 revealed that Athere were still 112 our of 399 national government agencies with no Web presence whatsoever@. An independent study made in April 2002 by the Digital Phils., Inc. on E-Government in the Philippines revealed Athat of the 140 national government web
sites examined, there was no transactional government website; that 14 percent or 20 of the web sites were unreachable; and that only 19 percent or 27 could be considered interactive@. (id.).
It has been reported in 2000 that as part of the vision of the Supreme Court to improve the performance of the judiciary, it was exploring the idea of applying for a World Bank loan to finance the construction of halls of justice in the Philippine municipalities and cities, install modern information and communication technology in the courts, and other judicial reforms, provided, that the conditionalities thereof would not compromise the independence of the judiciary. (Donna S. Cueto, AHigh Court Eyes WB Loan@, Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 13, 2000, page 7). Assigned to liaison with the World Bank and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) for the purpose was Justice Artemio V. Panganiban. (Id.). It has been reported, too, that by 2005 the Supreme Court shall have adopted and installed technological innovations and equipment in the lower courts:
1. Voice or speech recognition, whereby in place of stenography, software and hardware that recognize spoken words converting them into printable or electronic format will be used instead;
2. Electronic data interchange or paperless communication, where orders and writs, as well as pleadings, will be electronically exchanged among the courts, lawyers and parties;
3. Electronic information kiosks, wherein case-calendaring will be made available via the Internet, which displays terminals installed in public places like city halls, malls and houses of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; and
4. Video teleconferencing, whereby detention prisoners, physically handicapped witnesses or victims of psychologically wounding crimes will be shielded from the trauma of courtroom appearances. (id.).
In the early part of 2002 it was reported that Apilot electronic courts (or Ae-courts)@ would be set up by the Supreme Court by the middle of the year. ( Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 18, 2002, p. A7). One pilot electronic court would be set up in the cities of Makati, Mandaluyong, Marikina, Caloocan, Quezon, and Cebu. The features of the e-courts would include: a) computer-aided transcription machines; b) video rooms; c) trial court websites; and d) computer link-up to the Supreme Court. It was envisioned that lawyers and litigants would be able to visit the websites of the pilot e-courts to download copies of decisions, orders, and transcripts of the cases pending with the e-courts. The initial budget for the pilot project was P20 Million, one-half of which would come from the Countryside Development Fund (CDF) of Sen. Aquilino Pimentel. To date, no implementing rules have been issued yet by the Supreme Court on the Aelectronic filing@ of pleadings with the proposed e-courts. (id.).
3. E-Commerce Act of 2000
Republic Act No. 8792 (Electronic Commerce Act of 2000; or AECA 2000") declares the following state policy:
Sec. 2. Declaration of Policy. - The State recognizes the vital role of information and communications technology (ICT) in nation-building; the need to create an information-friendly environment which supports and ensures the availability, diversity and affordability of ICT products and services; the primary responsibility of the private sector in contributing investments and services in telecommunications and information technology; the need to develop, with appropriate training programs and institutional policy changes, human resources for the information technology age, a labor force skilled in the use of ICT and a population capable of operating and utilizing electronic appliances and computers; its obligation to facilitate the transfer and promotion of adaptation technology, to ensure network security, connectivity and neutrality of technology for the national benefit; and the need to marshal, organize and deploy national information infrastructures, comprising in both telecommunications network and strategic information services, including their interconnection to the global information networks, with the necessary and appropriate legal, financial, diplomatic and technical framework, systems and facilities.
ECA 2000 provides that Ainformation shall not be denied legal effect, validity or enforceability solely on the grounds that it is in the data message purporting to give rise to such legal effect, or that it is merely referred to in that electronic data message@. (Sec. 6).
It accords legal enforceability to electronic documents by providing that Aelectronic documents shall have the legal effect, validity or enforceability as any other document or legal writing, and -
(a) Where the law requires a document to be in writing, that requirement is met by an electronic document if the said electronic document maintains its integrity and reliability and can be authenticated so as to be usable for subsequent reference, in that -
(i) The electronic document has remained complete and unaltered, apart from the addition of any endorsement and any authorized change, or any change which arises in the normal course of communication, storage and display; and
(ii) The electronic document is reliable in the light of the purpose for which it was generated and in the light of all the relevant circumstances.
(b) Paragraph (a) applies whether the requirement therein is in the form of an obligation or whether the law simply provides consequences for the document not being presented or retained in its original form.
(c) Where the law requires that a document be presented or retained in its original form, that requirement is met by an electronic document if -
(i) There exists a reliable assurance as to the integrity of the document from the time when it was first generated in its final form; and
(ii) That document is capable of being displayed to the person to whom it is to be presented: Provided, That no provision of this Act shall apply to vary any and all requirements of existing laws on formalities required in the execution of documents for their validity@. (Sec. 7).
For evidentiary purposes, Aan electronic document shall be the functional
equivalent of a written document under existing laws@. (Id.; see also the 2001 Rules of Electronic Evidence, downloadable from www.supremecourt.gov.ph).
The law provides that Aan electronic signature on the electronic document shall be equivalent to the signature of a person on a written document if that signature is proved by showing that a prescribed procedure, not alterable by the parties interested in the electronic document, existed under which -
(a) A method is used to identify the party sought to be bound and to indicate said party=s access to the electronic document necessary for his consent or approval through the electronic signature;
(b) Said method is reliable and appropriate for the purpose for which the electronic document was generated or communicated, in the light of all the circumstances, including any relevant agreement;
(c) It is necessary for the party sought to be bound, in order to proceed further with the transaction, to have executed or provided the electronic signature; and
(d) The other party is authorized and enabled to verify the electronic signature and to make the decision to proceed with the transaction authenticated by the same@. (Sec. 8).
It provides that: A(1) Where the law requires information to be presented or retained in its original form, that requirement is met by an electronic data message or electronic document if:
(a) the integrity of the information from the time when it was first generated in its final form, as an electronic data message or electronic document is shown by evidence aliunde or otherwise; and
(b) where it is required that information be presented, that the information is capable of being displayed to the person to whom it is to be presented.
(2) Paragraph (1) applies whether the requirement therein is in the form of an obligation or whether the law simply provides consequences for the information not being presented or retained in its original form.
(3) For the purposes of subparagraph (a) of paragraph (1):
(a) the criteria for assessing integrity shall be whether the information has remained complete and unaltered, apart from the addition of any endorsement and any change which arises in the normal course of communication, storage and display; and
(b) the standard of reliability required shall be assessed in the light of the purpose for which the information was generated and in the light of all relevant circumstances@. (Sec. 10).
Section 11 of the Act provides: AThe person seeking to introduce an electronic data message and electronic document in any legal proceeding has the burden of proving its authenticity by evidence capable of supporting a finding that the electronic data message and electronic document is what the person claims it to be@.
In the absence of evidence to the contrary, Athe integrity of the information and communication system in which an electronic data message or electronic document is recorded or stored may be established in any legal proceeding -
(a) By evidence that at all material times the information and communication system or other similar device was operating in a manner that did not affect the integrity of the electronic data message and/or electronic document, and there are no other reasonable grounds to doubt the integrity of the information and communication system;
(b) By showing that the electronic data message and/or electronic document was recorded or stored by a party to the proceedings who is adverse in interest to the party using it; or
(c) By showing that the electronic data message and/or electronic document was recorded or stored in the usual and ordinary course of business by a person who is not a party to the proceedings and who did not act under the control of the party using the record@. (Sec. 11).
In any legal proceedings, Anothing in the application of the rules on evidence shall deny the admissibility of an electronic data message or electronic document in evidence -
a. on the sole ground that it is in electronic form; or
b. on the ground that it is not in the standard written form and electronic data message or electronic document meeting, and complying with the requirements under Sections 6 or 7 hereof shall be the best evidence of the agreement and transaction contained therein@. (Sec. 12).
In assessing the evidential weight of an electronic data message or electronic document, Athe reliability of the manner in which it was generated, stored or communicated, the reliability of the manner in which its originator was identified, and other relevant factors shall be given due regard@. (Sec. 12).
The requirement in any provision of law that certain documents be retained in their original form is satisfied Aby retaining them in the form of an electronic data message or electronic document which -
a. Remains accessible so as to be usable for subsequent reference; firm
b. Is retained in the format in which it was generated, sent or received, or in a format which can be demonstrated to accurately represent the electronic data message or electronic document generated, sent or received;
c. Enables the identification of its originator and addressee, as well as the determination of the date and the time it was sent or received@. (Sec. 13).
Sections 27 and 28 of the Act regulate electronic transactions in Government:
SEC. 27. Government Use of Electronic Data Messages, Electronic Documents and Electronic Signatures. - Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, within two (2) years from the date of the effectivity of this Act, all departments, bureaus, offices and agencies of the government, as well as all government-owned and-controlled corporations, that pursuant to law require or accept the filing of documents, require that documents be created, or retained and/or submitted, issue permits, licenses or certificates of registration or approval, or provide for the method and manner of payment or settlement of fees and other obligations to the government, shall -
(a) accept the creation, filing or retention of such documents in the form of electronic data messages or electronic documents;
(b) issue permits, licenses, or approval in the form of electronic data messages or electronic documents;
(c) require and/or accept payments, and issue receipts acknowledging such payments, through systems using electronic data messages or electronic documents; or
(d) transact the government business and/or perform governmental functions using electronic data messages or electronic documents, and for the purpose, are authorized to adopt and promulgate, after appropriate public hearing and with due publication in newspapers of general circulation, the appropriate rules, regulations, or guidelines, to, among others, specify -
(1) the manner and format in which such electronic data messages or electronic documents shall be filed, created, retained or issued;
(2) where and when such electronic data messages or electronic documents have to be signed, the use of a electronic signature, the type of electronic signature required;
(3) the format of an electronic data message or electronic document and the manner the electronic signature shall be affixed to the electronic data message or electronic document;
(4) the control processes and procedures as appropriate to ensure adequate integrity, security and confidentiality of electronic data messages or electronic documents or records or payments;
(5) other attributes required of electronic data messages or electronic documents or payments; and
(6) the full or limited use of the documents and papers for compliance with the government requirements: Provided, That this Act shall by itself mandate any department of the government, organ of state or statutory corporation to accept or issue any document in the form of electronic data messages or electronic documents upon the adoption, promulgation and publication of the appropriate rules, regulations, or guidelines@.
ASEC. 28. RPWEB To Promote the Use Of Electronic Documents and Electronic Data Messages In Government and to the General Public. - Within two (2) years from the effectivity of this Act, there shall be installed an electronic online network in accordance with Administrative Order 332 and House of Representatives Resolution 890, otherwise known as RPWEB, to implement Part IV of this Act to facilitate the open, speedy and efficient electronic online transmission, conveyance and use of electronic data messages or electronic documents amongst all government departments, agencies, bureaus, offices down to the division level and to the regional and provincial offices as practicable as possible, government owned and controlled corporations, local government units, other public instrumentalities, universities, colleges and other schools, and universal access to the general public.
The RPWEB network shall serve as initial platform of the government information infrastructure (GII) to facilitate the electronic online transmission and conveyance of government services to evolve and improve by better technologies or kinds of electronic online wide area networks utilizing, but not limited to, fiber optic, satellite, wireless and other broadband telecommunication mediums or modes. To facilitate the rapid development of the GII, the Department of Transportation and Communications, National Telecommunications Commission and the National Computer Center are hereby directed to aggressively promote and implement a policy environment and regulatory or non-regulatory framework that shall lead to the substantial reduction of costs of including, but not limited to, lease lines, land, satellite and dial-up telephone access, cheap broadband and wireless accessibility by government departments, agencies, bureaus, offices, government owned and controlled corporations, local government units, other public instrumentalities and the general public, to include the establishment of a government website portal and a domestic internet exchange system to facilitate strategic access to government and amongst agencies thereof and the general public and for the speedier flow of locally generated internet traffic within the Philippines.
The physical infrastructure of cable and wireless systems for cable TV and broadcast excluding programming and content and the management thereof shall be considered as within the activity of telecommunications for the purpose of electronic commerce and to maximize the convergence of ICT in the installation of the GII@.
Section 33 of the Act defines the punishable acts and the imposable penalties:
(a) Hacking or cracking which refers to unauthorized access into or interference in a computer system/server or information and communication system; or any access in order to corrupt, alter, steal, or destroy using a computer or other similar information and communication devices, without the knowledge and consent of the owner of the computer or information and communications system, including the introduction of computer viruses and the like, resulting in the corruption, destruction, alteration, theft or loss of electronic data messages or electronic document shall be punished by a minimum fine of one hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00) and a maximum commensurate to the damage incurred and a mandatory imprisonment of six (6) months to three (3) years;
(b) Piracy or the unauthorized copying, reproduction, dissemination, distribution, importation, use, removal, alteration, substitution, modification, storage, uploading, downloading, communication, making available to the public, or broadcasting of protected material, electronic signature or copyrighted works including legally protected sound recordings or phonogram or information material on protected works, through the use of telecommunication networks, such as, but not limited to, the internet, in a manner that infringes intellectual property rights shall be punished by a minimum fine of one hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00) and a maximum commensurate to the damage incurred and a mandatory imprisonment of six (6) months to three (3) years;
(c) Violations of the Consumer Act or Republic Act No. 7394 and other relevant or pertinent laws through transactions covered by or using electronic data messages or electronic documents, shall be penalized with the same penalties as provided in those laws;
(d) Other violations of the provisions of this Act, shall be penalized with a maximum penalty of one million pesos (P1,000,000.00) or six (6) years imprisonment@.
The data appearing in this section were provided by the office staff of Atty. Jaime Vibar, National Executive Director for Operations, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).
The author had requested Atty. Vibar to provide the author with statistics on the number of pending and adjudicated IBP administrative cases involving lawyers for unethical solicitation of cases or lawyers advertising, the copies of the minutes of the IBP committee that helped prepare the draft of the 1988 Code of Professional Responsibility, the minutes of the meetings of the IBP National Board of Governors on the issue of law firm marketing and unethical lawyer advertising, opinion survey reports, if any, conducted by the IBP on the public perception of lawyers and the state of the Philippine legal profession and the Philippine justice system, but unfortunately the office of Atty. Vibar did not respond to the request of the author.