Sunday, October 11, 2015

Judicial reforms in the Philippines

"x x x.

However, the President, speaking in his characteristic mixture of English and Filipino, did not mince words in reminding the justices: “What our bosses expect from us public servants is simple: Instead of just tiis (being patient), let’s promote genuine justice. That’s why I will take this opportunity to raise some issues with you.”

Some serious issues he did raise, zeroing on delays and on the constitutional command that “[a]ll cases or matters filed… must be decided or resolved within twenty-four months from the date of submission for the Supreme Court… twelve months for all lower collegiate courts, and three months for all other lower courts.”

He was particularly distressed at the unusually long litigations involving infrastructure projects, pointing to the refusal of trial courts to immediately issue writs of possession, even after the government had filed the appropriate expropriation proceedings, resulting in delays in the construction of many toll ways, the Naia expressway in particular.

“The complex that will be built will be modern and of high quality, with new equipment. But for me the most important part of it is the people who will work there… It’s still up to you if you will uphold what is right and just,” the President emphasized. He also attacked some decisions for allegedly being “judicial legislation.”

Judicial reform program. In her speech preceding the President’s, Chief Justice Sereno highlighted five new “innovative” projects to address delays: 

(1) the e-Subpoena system which uses e-mail to compel policemen to attend hearings especially in drug-related cases, citing the cooperation of Secretary De Lima and former interior secretary Mar Roxas; 

(2) the “Enterprise Information System… which will allow the judiciary to use technology and automation to make its processes not only faster but also more efficient, transparent and predictable;” 

(3) the “decongestion project called Hustisyeah… which was able to reduce dockets in 119 target courts as of [Oct. 1] by 31.44 percent;” 

(4) “another project called Assisting Court System… with a result of 47.32 percent reduction of dockets [in target courts] in just five months;” and 

(5) “the establishment of… 48 Family Courts,” apart from the Regional Trial Courts that have been designated as family courts.

Hearing her address, I thought that these five projects are really parts of the more extensive “Four Pillars of Judicial Reform” that the Supreme Court is currently undertaking.

The “Four Pillars” are not known by the public. I will write about them in the future but quickly, the first is on instituting integrity, public trust and credibility; the second is on ensuring predictability, rationality, speed and responsiveness of judicial actions; the third is on improving systems infrastructure; and the fourth is on efficient and effective human resources.

Only 55, Chief Justice Sereno has 15 more years to steer the judiciary and to finish the Supreme Court complex. In fact, she will have more time than the next two presidents to permanently reform our judicial system.

x x x."