ECCP President Hubert d’
Aboville, Vice President for External Affairs Henry Schumacher, members of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines,
distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen, a pleasant good afternoon to all of you.
First of all, thank you for your kind invitation
to be with you today and also for your continuing support to the Philippines these past 33 years since your founding in 1978.
In your invitation, you emphasized the importance
of the judicial system in the economy and business, and for that matter, in the life of every individual in society.
I have been asked to share my thoughts on the state
of the Judiciary, the Department of Justice, and the Office of the Ombudsman, as well as the reforms that should be undertaken
by them. I can of course speak only about the Judiciary because the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman
are not within my turf or competence to talk about. This of course proceeds from the so-called “separation of powers”
principle under the Constitution which has wisely divided and allocated the vast powers of government among the Executive,
Congress, and the Judiciary.
Courts of justice are mandated by the Constitution
to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether there
has been a grave abuse of discretion by government or its officials. The Constitution essentially requires a simplified,
inexpensive, uniform and speedy decision-making process of settling legal controversies and/or abuse of discretion by
government or its officials.
Well aware of such a heavy Constitutional duty, the
Supreme Court has identified and prioritized key programs of reform.
These programs cover seven general areas, namely,
strengthening the integrity and competence of our judicial officers, enhancing the people’s access to justice (especially
for the underprivileged), the decentralization of certain non-judicial functions, the construction and rehabilitation of our
Halls of Justice, improving our level of information and communication technology, strengthening coordination among the member-agencies
of the Justice Sector Coordinating Council and completely overhauling the conduct of the bar examinations.
Let me describe these programs in detail.
Strengthening the integrity and competence of the
With the help of the United States Agency for International
Development and the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, the Supreme Court launched the Strengthening the Integrity
of the Judiciary (SIJ) program. We conducted a systematic examination of our integrity measures and identified institutional
weaknesses impinging on the over-all judicial performance. We then assessed our court functions in terms of their vulnerability
to corruption and took preventive actions against potential corruption. We held consultative meetings with court employees
and concerned stakeholders such as prosecutors, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and non-governmental organizations.
The SIJ program led to the review, revision and/or
implementation of new rules of procedures and manuals on Whistleblowing, Comprehensive Procurement Plan, Performance Management
System for Court Personnel, Code of Conduct for Court Personnel, Financial Matters and Numerical Evaluation System for Appointments
Through its administrative supervisory powers, the
Supreme Court has also taken disciplinary action against erring court officers and employees, lawyers, judges and justices,
even if they have already retired from the Judiciary. The retirement pay and other benefits of court officials and employees
with pending cases are withheld until these cases are resolved and, in case of guilt, the appropriate fines are deducted from
them. Drug testing for all court employees is now mandatory.
As of the end of the first year of my term as Chief
Justice on May 17, 2011, we had disbarred 5 lawyers and suspended 8 others, meted out admonitions to 6, given severe warnings
to 2, imposed various fines on 60, ordered the arrest or detention of 9 and severely reprimanded 1. For court officials, we
had punished 35 justices, judges and court personnel, dropped a number from the service and struck them from the rolls, admonished
11, reprimanded 38, forfeited the benefits of 5 and censured 1. We had imposed various fines on 101 and suspended 42.
We also issued Memorandum Order No. 04-2011 providing
guidelines on the gathering of data on anti-corruption cases filed and disposed of in all courts involving justices, judges,
court officials and personnel. This Order aims to enhance judicial integrity and eradicate corruption within the bench.
On the positive side, the Court, in partnership with
the Society for Judicial Excellence, also gives annual recognition and awards to judges and clerks of court who are paragons
of excellent judicial conduct and performance. These judicial excellence awardees are shining examples for others to emulate.
Hand in hand with the measures to prevent or at least
minimize corruption, to reward exemplary officials and employees and to discipline those who have not kept faith with their
oaths of office, the upgrading of skills, knowledge and competency in the law has received special emphasis under my stewardship.
Modesty aside, our training programs in the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA) and the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education
program are top quality and have received favorable comments from various local and international agencies.
Enhancing people’s access to justice (especially
for the underprivileged)
Pursuant to its rule-making power, the Supreme Court
has institutionalized certain rules, programs and measures enhancing the people’s access to justice, especially for
the underprivileged. These are:
1. The Enhanced Justice on Wheels (EJOW) Program
where justice, through the use of eight mobile courts stationed in different parts of the country, is literally brought to
the grassroots, especially in the far-flung areas without judges and/or courtrooms. In a very real sense, this is the judiciary
going out of its way to knock at people’s doors, fostering social justice and delivering various legal and judicial
services to the least of our brethren. Apart from holding hearings in remote parts of the country, the EJOW conducts court-annexed
mediation services and gives priority to the resolution of long-pending cases and cases involving detainees who have actually
overserved their rightful sentences. This inevitably results in jail and docket decongestion. The EJOW likewise gives free
medical, dental and legal aid to detainees. Through the EJOW, we also hold dialogues with justice stakeholders and disseminate
legal information to village officials.
The EJOW is being implemented with the help of our
international donor agencies, local government officials, local communities, members of the legal profession and our present
eight roving buses with built-in courtroom and mediation facilities, which we hope to increase in the times to come. Aside
from our judicial functions, the EJOW is probably the most socially relevant program of the Supreme Court.
2. Annual Mandatory 60-Hour Free Legal Aid Services
to Indigent Litigants to be rendered by every practicing lawyer in the Philippines
This reflects the Court’s belief that being
a lawyer in the Philippines is a noble calling and profession, not a business or money-making trade. The practice of law is
dedicated to the ideals of service and is not a mere trade. Truth, justice and service, not material gain, must be the
prime motivation of the members of the legal profession.
3. Exemption from the Payment of Legal Fees of the
Clients of the National Legal Aid Committee (NCLA) and of the Legal Aid Offices of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
By this program, the Judiciary is, in effect, leveling
the playing field for the underprivileged to avail of the services of the judicial system.
4. The Rules of Procedure for Small Claims Cases,
in which ordinary litigants can prosecute and defend cases in an inexpensive, informal and simple way merely by filling
up ready-made forms, without the participation of lawyers, for money claims equivalent to a maximum of R100,000. Usually,
the judges hear and decide small money claims after one or two hearings only, compared to the normal litigation period averaging
four (4) months or more.
To date, the small claims procedure is already being
practiced in all first- level courts. It has been a resounding success, as records show. As of February 2011, 691 out of 2,107
small claims cases filed have been successfully disposed of, resulting in a disposition rate of 33%.
5. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) The experience
with alternative dispute mechanisms in other countries has been very positive and encouraging so much so that we have adopted
them in the Philippines. ADR saves time, money and effort on the part of all contending parties. It has been institutionalized
by the Legislature and the Supreme Court, thereby enabling the parties to settle their legal disputes through
conciliation, mediation, arbitration and other equally effective ways. The courts intervene only in cases allowed by law or
by the special ADR rules.
6. The Juvenile Delinquency Rule specifies
how cases of children in conflict with the law should be handled and treated by police, legal officers, social workers and
other service providers, thus preventing child exploitation. If the child is found guilty, the Court, instead of executing
the judgment of conviction shall place the child under suspended sentence. The court shall determine the proper disposition
measures to be taken, which can be any or a combination of the following: care, guidance, and supervision orders; community
service orders; drug and alcohol treatment; group counseling or commitment to a rehabilitation center.
7. Other Court Outreach Programs are special programs
which deal mainly with enhancing access to justice by the poor and marginalized through seminars and lectures informing people
of their rights and how to seek redress for their grievances.
8. The Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts of the Courts
have been successful and have merited for the Judiciary a special recognition from the US Government for its efforts, and
for the country to receive an upgrade in its rating in this area.
Writ of Amparo and Writ of Habeas Data
In response to the escalating problem of extrajudicial
killings and enforced disappearances in the country, the Supreme Court, in 2007 and 2008, formulated the Writ of Amparo and
the Writ of Habeas Data. The old Writ of Habeas Corpus under the Rules of Court no longer provided an adequate answer to the
political killings and kidnappings allegedly perpetrated by government agents. Under the Writ of Amparo, the usual defense
of alibi and I-don’t-know will not suffice to relieve a government agent of responsibility for solving the killing or
Writ of Kalikasan
The new Rules of Procedure on Environmental Cases
provided for the new and extraordinary reliefs called Writ of Kalikasan (“nature”) and Continuing Mandamus
which can be availed of in cases of environmental abuse. To date, this is the first and only one of its kind in the world
and is expected to have ripple effects on the judiciaries in other jurisdictions.
Decentralization of courts and the Office of the
Previously, all the appellate courts were based in
Manila. But through legislation and judicial orders, 23 Court of Appeals divisions have been established in the three major
islands of Philippines – seventeen (17) in Manila for Luzon cases, three (3) in Cebu City for Visayas cases and three
(3) in Cagayan de Oro City for Mindanao cases. This has hastened the resolution of cases appealed to the Court of Appeals.
We are also decentralizing certain functions of the
central offices of the Supreme Court from Manila to all the twelve (12) judicial regions through Regional Court Administration
Offices (RCAO) nationwide. This will speedily provide vital support services to the lower courts and aid them in the efficient
and effective administration of justice. These services include procurement, management of equipment and facilities, and the
maintenance of our Halls of Justice (HoJs).
Construction and rehabilitation of Halls of Justice
and court facilities
Our halls of justice reflect the dignity of the law
and must present a good image of the Judiciary. The World Bank has committed to fund the construction of three pilot model
halls of justice. The Lapu-Lapu City Hall of Justice in Cebu is finished and functioning. The Angeles City Hall of Justice
in Pampanga is nearing completion while the plans for the ultra-modern multi-story Manila Hall of Justice are being finalized.
These three pilot model halls of justice will serve as the standard models for all future halls of justice in other parts
of the country.
The support and generosity of the local government
units have not been wanting in terms of providing the land on which to build the halls of justice and, in other instances,
outright financial support for the construction, repair or expansion of existing courtrooms.
The construction of the modern Philippine Judicial
Academy Training Facilities in Tagaytay
City is nearing completion. It will house the facilities
for judges undergoing training and the Global Distance Learning Facility.
Improving Information And Communication Technology
The Supreme Court has long realized that no meaningful
reform can be introduced to our judicial system without computerization. It is the way to go in this day and age. The problem
of backlogs and the congestion of dockets, let alone inefficiency, will never be solved without the help of an effective computerized
system. We thank the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and our other development partners for their ever ready and generous
offer of assistance to help us achieve this ambitious goal.
We have in fact started our march to full computerization,
albeit with only the most important of systems such as the Management Information System Office Re-engineering Plan; the Enterprise
Information System Plan (which provides the functional, technical and structural specifications for our information systems
from 2010 to 2014); the Judiciary Case Management System and its accompanying Enhanced Case Flow Management System (which
monitor the status of cases to see whether they are proceeding as scheduled, thereby declogging court dockets and speeding
up the seemingly slumbrous pace of adjudication); the ePayment System (which computerizes the recording of collections and
issuance of a single official receipt, thus drastically reducing the possibility of falsification of financial reports and
embezzlement); and the Case Decongestion and Case Delay Reduction Project (which identifies the specific causes of inefficiency
of each specific court’s operations and develops the corresponding court-specific case management plan and solutions).
The Justice Sector Coordinating Council (JSCC)
The JSCC’s formation and functions are based
on the Joint Declaration of the Justice Sector Agencies in Support of the Effective and Efficient Administration of Justice.
This shows the changing mindset of the stakeholders in the justice system towards interdependence, closer collaboration and
coordination between and among the different agencies.
Revising the conduct of the bar examinations
Beginning this year, in November 2011, the Supreme
Court is adopting a reformed method of bar examinations combining 60% objective multiple choice questions and 40% essay-writing
of trial memoranda and legal opinions. Hopefully, this will further raise the standards and quality of the new members of
the Philippine bar, by requiring them to have a comprehensive knowledge of the relevant laws and rules of procedure, as well
as testing their ability to apply them to a set of facts and circumstances involving theoretical clients.
Other proposals under study
I have other plans which are currently under study
preparatory to seeking legislative authority to implement them. One is to overhaul the adversarial format of court litigation
so as to make the judge an active mediator between the contending parties, instead of acting as an aloof and indifferent referee
in the middle.
This is in fact the practice in many European countries.
Another is for a legislative act, and it goes without saying, a budgetary appropriation, to hire retired judges still in good
health to help draft proposed decisions on long-pending cases. These retired judges will only help the incumbent judges in
drafting their decisions but will not hear cases.
The final say will still belong to the incumbent
judges. Still another legislative proposal is to appoint roving judges whom the Supreme Court can assign to courts with extraordinarily
heavy dockets, unlike the present system in which a specific judge is assigned to a specific court more or less permanently
until he retires, gets promoted or is appointed by the President to another court elsewhere.
On that note, I would like to end my presentation.
I hope I have succeeded in giving you a bird’s eye view of the most critical reform programs being implemented by the
Thank you once again and a pleasant good afternoon
to all of you.