Monday, July 25, 2011

The dragon of delay our Courts have yet to slay*

200 years.2

That is possibly how long a case such as the Ampatuan case might take in the natural scheme of things—

in our scheme plagued with delays, that is.

Judicial delays are due to all sorts of evils, including those besetting our case adminstration system. One, the system of filing, calendaring and recalling of cases is manual hence, inefficient (duh.). Two, records and exhibits on file and transcriptions of stenographic notes physically deteriorate in storage or get misplaced or lost as the period of delay lengthens into years. Three, lower courts are notorious for late and incomplete transmittal of records of appealed cases to appellate courts.3 And the laundry list goes longer and dirtier. The court dockets are in bad shape. Backlogged. Congested. Delayed (hm, isn’t this always a sign that something’s wrong? a sufficient cause of alarm?).

The overarching theme is the failure of the courts to utilize technological advancement to the fullest, from the use of modern electronic means of communication (filing of pleadings thru fax/e-mail, perhaps) the simple utilization of off-the-shelf software (such as the ‘CaseMap’ being used in the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda), to the development of unique applications tailored to the court’s particular needs (e.g., database for electronic case files). Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. himself admits that the Philippine legal system “has much catching up to do with the rapid advances in technology.”

Still, the courts look at technology with a suspicious eye, as can be gleaned from the Supreme Court’s recent pronouncement: Indeed, members of this Court cannot strip their judicial robe and don the experts’ gown, so to speak, in a pretense to foresee and fathom all serious prejudices or risks from the use of technology inside the courtroom.4 But the courts are supposed to be servants of the society. If the old judicial robe is weighing them down, dragging the entire judicial system with them, maybe it’s time to try on the experts’ gown...

-Crisela Bernardino [entry #6]


1 Bautista, Juan Andres. Clogged dockets and judicial delay. 2 Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban (ret.). Speeding up quality justice. 3 Caparasu, Emmanuel L. and Feliciano, Florentino P. The Problem of Delay in the Philippine Court System.Vol.62, pp. 201-225. (1987). 4 Re: Petition For Radio And Television Coverage Of The Multiple Murder Cases Against Maguindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, Et Al. A.M. No. 10-11-5-Sc. June 14, 2011.

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