Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Information gap

I do not know what has happened to the implementation of a 2007 Supreme Court circular on the matter of “access to justice for the poor” which attempted to improve the free flow of information between the courts and the general public as a concrete form of assistance to the poor, the ignorant, and the oppressed.

Below is the full text of the issuance of the Court on the mater, for the reference of the visitors of this blog.

I hope the Court would soon issue a comprehensive and transparent evaluation and status report on how well the said program has been implemented by its personnel up to the grassroots level.

My only wish is that the Court would not be infected by the common chronic disease of the Philippine government and its loquacious and voracious politicians, chracterized by the following ugly symptoms: motherhood statements, wishful plans, and bombastic issuances and press releases aggravated by lack of follow-through, long-term maintenance, institutional sincerity, and reportorial transparency.

Republic of the Philippines


A.M. No. 05-2-01-SC, March 13, 2007]

The Court Resolved, upon the recommendation of the Committee on Public Information, to APPROVE the proposed Information, Education, Communication (IEC) Guidelines for Municipal Court Information Officers, to wit:


WHEREAS, the 1987 Constitution states that Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest. (Art. II, Sec. 28)
The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law. (Art. III, Sec. 7);

WHEREAS, the public's right to information must not result in the transgression of other equally paramount individual rights and as Congress may properly prescribe acceptable or practical limitations, or even prescribe the disclosure of certain information through appropriate legislation, similarly, the Supreme Court may also prescribe limitations on the public's access to court information, including evidentiary matters in its custody;

WHEREAS, the herein Information, Education, Communication (IEC) Guidelines are in line with the attainment of the objectives of the Access to Justice for the Poor Project (PHI/AID/2003/4980) implemented in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Justice, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and Alternative Law Groups, Inc. and funded by the European Commission;

WHEREAS, the IEC Guidelines have been formulated by the Technical Working Group of the Access to Justice for the Poor Project created by Memorandum Order No. 51-2005 in order to provide Municipal Court information Officers (MCIOs) with specific standards of conduct regarding disclosure of and access to court information pursuant to the directives of the Court in its resolution, dated 15 February 2005, in A.M. 05-2-01-SC, Re: SC Project: Access to Justice for the Poor Project;

WHEREAS, it is stated in the aforesaid resolution that the information dissemination activities of the court personnel at the trial court level should generally be conferred to court users with respect to actual cases as well as Rules issued by the Court;

WHEREAS, the purpose of the IEC Guidelines is to provide a framework for

(1) scoping out court information permissible for access by the users; and
(2) disseminating the allowable court information to users.

NOW, THEREFORE, the Court hereby adopts these IEC Guidelines for Municipal Court Information Officers for the Access to Justice for the Poor Project.
Article 1


A. Court Information refers to information filed in or generated by the courts, including all official records, documents, and decisions. Only court information that is not confidential may be disclosed.

B. Confidential Information generally refers to information not yet made a matter of public record relating to pending cases, such as notes, drafts, research papers, internal discussion, internal memoranda, records of internal deliberations, and similar papers. Even after the decision, resolution, or order is made public, such information that a justice or judge uses in preparing a decision, resolution, or order shall remain confidential.1

C. Municipal Court Information Officers (MCIOs) refer to the Clerks of Court (COCs), Acting Clerks of Court, or Officers-In-Charge of the first level courts designated as such under OCA Administrative Circular No. 16-2007 dated February 21, 2007 for the Access to Justice for the Poor Project.

D. Users refer to people who seek and can be provided access to court information for valid interests and objectives. They include litigants, general public, lawyers, and the partner agencies of the Access to Justice for the Poor Project.
Article 2


A. In All Cases

(1) Communicate in a language understood by a litigant;

(2) Inform the litigant on the availability of legal assistance from the Public Attorney's Office of the Department of Justice or any legal assistance office;

(3) Advise the litigant on the availability of an affidavit of indigency in lieu of payment of the filing fee;

(4) Make available court information except confidential information herein defined;

(5) Make available information materials concerning court processes, procedures, and rules.

B. In Applications for Temporary or Permanent Protection Orders in Cases of Violence Against Women and their Children (VAWC) Where There are No Family Courts in the Place Where the Offended Party Resides2

(1) Provide the petitioner with a standard petition form written in English with translation in the major local dialects, including the instructions for its accomplishment;

(2) Assist the petitioner in accomplishing the petition through the use of the checklist prescribed in the Rule on Violence Against Women and their Children;

(3) Ensure the privacy of the offended party to the extent practicable while the form is being accomplished;

(4) Advise the petitioner on the availability of legal assistance from the Public Attorney's Office of the Department of Justice or any public legal assistance office;

(5) Advise the petitioner on entitlement of support services from the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Local Government Units;

(6) Advise the petitioner on the availability of an affidavit of indigency in lieu of payment of the filing fee;

(7) Provide the offended party with a certified copy of the protection order as well as give the necessary information regarding the process for its service and enforcement.

(8) Make available information materials on violence against women and their children, including their rights as victims.

(9) Inform the offended party that compensation is available from the Department of Justice Board of Claims in accordance with the provisions of RA No. 7309 (1992), otherwise known as “An Act Creating a Board of Claims Under the Department of justice for Victims of Unjust Imprisonment or Detention and Victims of Unjust Imprisonment of Detention and Victims of Violent Crime and for Other Purposes”; and

(10) Ascertain if there is an immediate necessity due to imminent danger or threat of danger to act on a petition for a protection order, and if so, accept the petition without payment of the filing fee and other fees and of transcripts of stenographic notes.

C. In Cases of Child Witness3
Inform the parties that a videotape or audiotape in-depth investigative or disclosure interviews of child witnesses may be accepted as evidence under the conditions provided for in the pertinent rules.

D. In Dealing With the Media4

(1) Observe utmost caution in handling media inquiries. MCIOs shall refer such inquiries to their judges especially in instances where there may be a need to respond to unfair media criticism, inaccurate reporting, and violation of the sub judice rule, in which case, the judge or the Public information Office of the Supreme Court may assume such task.

(2) Provide the judge as soon as possible with the appropriate information on any matter subject of an inquiry by media personnel in order to guide the judge in making a decision on such an event or inquiry.

(3) Provide only factual and otherwise publicly accessible data or information such as

(a) Name of the parties, title of case, and case number, except in VAWC cases;
(b) Names of counsel;
(c) Name of the handling judge;
(d) Relevant dates and place concerning the incidents, except in VAWC cases;
(e) Petitions or prayer;
(f) Laws cited in the complaint or information;
(g) Hearing schedule; and
(h) Status of case.
(4) Allow interviews as permitted by their respective judges and only on matters that are purely informative in character without any expression of personal views.

(5) Coordinate immediately with the Supreme Court Public Information Office and the Office of the Court Administrator especially with regard to cases where there is extensive public interest and media coverage.
Article 3


The Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines and Special Rules of Procedure in Shari'a Courts shall be observed by Shari'a Court MCIOs in their IEC activities.
Article 5


A. MCIOs shall not disclose

(1) court information outside employment not required or included in the performance of official duties;
(2) any confidential information acquired while employed in the judiciary;
(3) confidential information given by litigants, witnesses, or attorneys to justices, judges or any other person, unless they are expressly authorized; and
(4) confidential information to individuals not authorized to receive such information by law, court rule, or administrative policy.

B. They shall not render advisory opinions and legal advice6 or suggest a legal course of action except as otherwise provided in these Guidelines.

C. They shall not have dealings with the public that will compromise the independence and integrity of the judiciary.7

D. They shall not make any comment on the merits of any case pending in their respective courts as well as in other courts.8

E. They shall not respond to any inquiry which tends to generate controversies arising from a judgment, decision, or action of the court.9

Article 6


Violations of these IEC Guidelines shall be punishable by existing laws, rules, and other regulations.


1 Section 1, Canon II, A.M. No. 03-06-13-SC, Code of Conduct for Court Personnel, April 13, 2004.
2 See Section 12, Part 1, A.M. No. 04-10-11-SC, Re: Rule on Violence Against Women and their Children, November 15, 2004.
3 See A.M. 004-07-SC, Re: Proposed Rule on Examination of a Child Witness, November 21, 2000.
4 See Philippine Judicial Academy, Manual Guide for the Judiciary in Dealing with Media (unpublished).
5 A.M. 03-06-13-SC, Code of Conduct for Court Personnel, April 13, 2004.
6 See A.M. No. 05-2-01-SC, Re: SC Project: Access to Justice for the Poor Project, February 15, 2005.
7 See Philippine Judicial Academy, Manual Guide for the Judiciary in Dealing with Media (unpublished).
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid.

Courtesy of:
The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation