Decongesting court dockets-A A +A
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
ONE bright spot in our local governance amid the PDAF scandals is a proposal to create more regional and municipal trial courts in Bacolod City.
According to Bacolod Rep. Evelio Leonardia, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Senator Aquilino Pimentel III have expressed support for to create more lower courts.
The Leonardia bill is more ambitious than the one proposed by 6th District Rep. Mercedes Álvarez under Republic Act 10371 that mandated the establishment of a new RTC branch in Sipalay City.
Leonardia filed House Bills (HB) 2490 which aims to create three additional RTCs for Bacolod that will bring the total for Negros Occidental to 28, while HB 2491 would add three more MTCs for Bacolod to increase them to 10.
The Bacolod representative ticked off figures. As of June this year, the 17 Bacolod RTCs are now handling 7,491 pending cases, beginning the current year with 6,398 cases.
In six months, 317 were disposed, while 259 were added, he said. This shows a completion rate of 4.9 percent against an accumulation rate of 14.9 percent, he said, pointing out that more cases are added than are disposed of in the RTCs.
In HB 2491, Leonardia noted that MTCs in Bacolod have a completion rate of only 3 percent, a situation that calls for additional courts to declog the dockets.
As a court-annexed mediator, I appreciate this judicial reform initiative.
Declogging the court dockets through court-annexed mediation (CAM) is a major judicial reform agenda of the Supreme Court. The aim of CAM was to achieve a reliable, efficient and low cost solution that can ease the decongestion of court dockets and ensure speedy case resolutions.
When CAM began in Negros Occidental back in May 2004, the dockets of the Regional Trial and Municipal Trial Courts in Cities grappled with 7,557 cases. Fast forward to nine years afterward, the caseloads have diminished but not that much.
Unless the number of court cases is reduced, trial judges will be overburdened because they are mandated to pen decisions within three months of cases primed for resolution.
But as those in the judicial loop would know, judicial resolutions are often penned not in months but in years. Retired Chief Justice Hilario Davide belabored that point to Bacolod mediators to help the courts to decongest its workload.
In fact, Republic Act No. 9285 asserts that the State shall encourage and actively promote the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as an important means to achieve speedy and impartial justice and declog court dockets.
The act shall be without prejudice to the adoption by the Supreme Court of any ADR system, such as mediation, conciliation, arbitration, or any combination thereof as a means of achieving speedy and efficient means of resolving cases pending before all courts in the Philippines which shall be governed by such rules as the Supreme Court may approve from time to time.
Justice delayed is justice denied. Only a fool would deny that. Anything that can speed up due process of justice and the disposition of cases should gain popular support.
So the addition of more courts in Negros Occidental, and in Bacolod, is a very laudable effort. And as I always emphasize, may the new bill also strengthen ADR mechanisms.
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 21, 2013.