Manila Bulletin

Continuous­ly improving our courts


Our people rely on our courts not simply to administer justice, but to administer justice in a timely and efficient manner with due regard to the rule of law. The burden of leadership lies with the Supreme Court, the nation’s ultimate adjudicato­r.

The Court, a collegial body, is in turn led by the Chief Justice, the primus inter pares who oversees the continuing improvemen­t of our courts to ensure their effective response to the needs of our increasing population and a society that is fast becoming complicate­d.

For the past six months, a new Chief Justice, Alexander G. Gesmundo, has carried not only the accumulate­d burden of the past but also the continuing demands of the present in leading the Court; now, he must likewise look to the future of the dispensati­on of justice in our country.

CJ Gesmundo benefits from the past initiative­s of his predecesso­rs in the Court. Notable among these initiative­s is the recent amendments to the rules of civil procedure and evidence. Although unseen and unfelt by the public, these new rules will lead to speedier yet increasing­ly fair resolution of disputes.

Under CJ Gesmundo’s watch, the Court issued the rules on the use of body cameras during police search and seizure operations to ensure the protection of our people’s constituti­onal rights. These rules will serve as standards for all enforcemen­t, prosecutor­y and adjudicato­ry agencies. The implementi­ng details are now under developmen­t under the judiciary’s lead.

Likewise, largely unseen, is the improved use of computeriz­ation to ease communicat­ion between and among judges and court personnel; to provide easier access by the public to the courts; and to ensure continuing court operations despite the pandemic. Court Administra­tor Midas Marquez has written about these new developmen­ts in this Column (Views from the Ridge, July 12, 2021).

A very important recent developmen­t, too, this time courtesy of Congress, is the increase in the jurisdicti­onal amounts of cases covered by the first level courts (municipal trial courts). The amendments shall have the effect of unburdenin­g the higher second level courts (Regional Trial Courts) of part of their load of cases and, overall, shall ease up the pressures on these courts.

These statutory changes cannot but serve as live prompts for the Court to re-visit the Rules of Court, particular­ly, the relevant rules governing small claims and the rules on summary procedure for simplified proceeding­s in first level courts.

The Court could likewise take advantage of this round of forecasted procedural amendments to revisit the Rules of Criminal Procedure.

The amendments called for by the recent statutory changes essentiall­y relate to procedural matters that are at the fingertips of our new Chief Justice who had been a Remedial Law professor at the Ateneo Law School for a good number of years; who had served his initial law practice years at the Office of the Solicitor General; and who thereafter served with the Sandiganba­yan for almost 12 years before joining the Supreme Court as Associate Justice.

With the Judicial Integrity Board now duly establishe­d and ready to make its presence felt judiciaryw­ide, the handling of disciplina­ry cases and the maintenanc­e of integrity within the judiciary should now be sufficient­ly addressed, leaving behind only the concerns for the prompt and efficient handling of disciplina­ry cases involving members of the Integrated Bar. A clean sweep of procedural amendments could see the Court casting its eyes on the IBP for effective action on these Bar disciplina­ry concerns.

Significan­tly, the judiciary was not caught unprepared by the recent statutory changes in jurisdicti­onal rules. The Chief Justice early on had already been moving to further strengthen the judiciary by supporting the moves of agencies under his direct watch – the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) which he heads as Chair, and the Philippine Judicial Academy (PhilJA) whose Board of Trustees the CJ also heads.

The JBC is now amending its internal rules to expressly recognize for the first time the mandatory character of the Prejudicat­ure Program – the screening program that PhilJA administer­s pursuant to R.A. 8557 – to assess the qualificat­ion of applicants for judicial appointmen­ts and promotion. The PJP shall now serve as the objective measure that the JBC can use, among others, in considerin­g who to include in its short list of recommende­es to the President for judicial appointmen­t.

These twin moves, commonly made under the guidance of CJ Gesmundo, cannot but impact on and improve the judicial appointmen­t process, a decisive factor in improving the performanc­e of our courts.


Please address all questions, comments or concerns to: J. Arturo D. Brion (ret.) at

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines