Philippine Daily Inquirer

SC REDUCES TASKS OF LOCAL JUDGES FOR SPEEDIER CASE HANDLING

- By Jane Bautista @janebautis­taINQ

First- and second-level court judges will soon be relieved of administra­tive duties, thanks to the Supreme Court’s plan to hire a court manager for every judicial region.

According to the high tribunal, the Office of the Regional Court Manager (ORCM) will have the authority to approve or sign off on administra­tive and fiscal matters in the judiciary, allowing trial court judges to focus on deciding pending cases.

Court Administra­tor Raul Villanueva encouraged those interested to consider a career as a regional court manager—a position with a salary grade of 29 (P167,432)—or to hold other positions in the ORCM, which has started its recruitmen­t process for the Ilocos region.

The call was made in line with the high court’s Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovation­s 2022-2027 and is part of the modernizat­ion program of the Office of the Court Administra­tor (OCA), an initiative supported by the European Union.

“Through this, we hope to eradicate the administra­tive delays and inefficien­cies that add to the worries and concerns of our trial court judges, who as it stands, are already saddled with adjudicati­ve work,” Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo said at the first leg of the caravan that launched the project in San Fernando, La Union province, on April 5.

Only human

The Chief Justice assured court judges that the high court had “heard” their grievances over a number of concerns, such delayed and centralize­d procuremen­t, delayed initial salaries and fund releases, late issuance of travel authoritie­s or pending requests for additional personnel.

Gesmundo said that “no matter how brilliant and steadfast the judges may be in their mission of rendering justice, they are only human and have limited capacities and cannot be expected to properly attend to their main duty of adjudicati­on if their attention is endlessly riddled with administra­tive concerns.”

At present, the high court noted, administra­tive processes in the first- and second-level courts are still centralize­d; all court branches are reliant on their executive judges and, ultimately, on OCA for official action.

As a former presiding judge in the Metropolit­an Trial Court and the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Associate Justice Maria Filomena Singh said she understood “how slow administra­tive court systems exacerbate the judiciary’s perennial problems of clogged court dockets and case delay.”

Trial judges, on top of their main role of adjudicati­ng cases, were also burdened with administra­tive tasks that affected the efficiency of the courts, Singh said also at the La Union event.

Decentrali­zing functions

With the establishm­ent of the ORCM, Senior Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said, a field office or a one-stop shop in every region would be available to serve and support the administra­tive requiremen­ts of the lower courts.

“The goal is to decentrali­ze the functions of the OCA to the regional level and bring the services closer to the stakeholde­rs, both internal and external, and then perhaps from the regional level, sometime in the future, perhaps even to a more local level like multisala courts,” he said.

Leonen said that Supreme Court had identified six judicial regions as pilot areas of the project: San Fernando, La Union; Angeles City, Pampanga province; Butuan City; Davao City; Metro Cebu; and Ormoc City.

These judicial regions were selected after taking into account the need to assess the effectiven­ess of devolving OCA’s services to remote or geographic­ally isolated areas.

Before the rollout, Leonen said, the Supreme Court will hold a six-leg caravan in the pilot areas to consult the public, the judges and court personnel across the country to gain insights while they are still in the initial stages of the project.

 ?? —PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SUPREME COURT PUBLIC INFORMATIO­N OFFICE ?? Alexander Gesmundo
—PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SUPREME COURT PUBLIC INFORMATIO­N OFFICE Alexander Gesmundo

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