More transparent judiciary
Far from a perceived aloof judiciary, this branch of the government which is co-equal and balances off power with the executive branch under the Office of the President and the legislative branch called the House of Congress, will take on a new face with the newly appointed Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno on the helm. The transformation may not happen too fast, nevertheless, it is envisioned to make Court information readily available to the public within their fingertips. This is if the executive branch-proposed digitization of the judiciary database will come to fruition.
Sereno, whose appointment to the post was unconventional having bypassed several senior associate justices including Justice Antonio Carpio, is thought of not having strings to pull with the executive branch following the Dept. of Budget and Management’s willingness to provide budgetary support for the digitization initiatives for the judiciary. Budget Sec. Florencio Abad himself disclosed to the media the agency’s willingness to support the Supreme Court’s drive for increased transparency, accountability and openness in its budgetary activities.
Among these activities that the DBM has given its assent is the digitization (or computerization) of the “High Court’s internal processes to boost operational efficiency and allow little to no room for abuse or irregularity.” This dovetails to CJ Sereno’s proposed creation of online system wherein old and updated information in judiciary including court decisions could be seen.
The young lady chief magistrate explained, “This way anyone can check the status of their cases online and monitor its progress from there without having to make multiple visits or phone calls to a judge’s office.” Besides that, as Sereno further remarked, by posting these data online it will be quicker and easier to identify which cases are taking too long to resolve in order that the “judicial system can pursue measures to hasten the resolution of long-standing cases.”
Easier said than done, these plans are all too good to be true if only the very purpose is to hasten the disposition of cases. Let it be noted that thousands of cases are pending in courts across the country right, largely involving detained prisoners, including those awaiting final verdict from the Supreme Court in heinous cases. Cases in first level courts, such as the municipal and regional trial courts, usually take three to four months for the next settings because of the volume of case loads filed in each court sala. Worse situation is that some judges need to divide his working days among various salas because the salas where they are designated to assist has no regular judge appointed without delay.
The volume of cases filed in court is constantly increasing with minimal disposal insubstantial to keep the level manageable. Too sad there are yet quite a number of cities and municipalities which deserve to have additional salas that would hear the cases. A case of chicken and egg cycle, the issue on funding additional salas is a tug-of-war between the executive branch on one side and the judiciary on the other. The executive branch insists that the judiciary has its funds for the purpose of having additional or improving their salas, thus no fund augmentation is necessary. The judiciary contends that the creation of additional salas is by virtue of national legislations thus should be funded under the general appropriations fund.
That is besides the other facilities that special salas should have under special laws, like holding rooms for victims and child witnesses, and other state-of-the-art equipment essential in better hearing and trial of cases, especially those involving child witnesses.
There are too many issues confronting the judiciary, other than the affront on this branch’s constitutional right called “fiscal autonomy.” There is yet the issue on corruption or at the least manner the alleged “influence peddling” which is blight in the society as old as time. Employees in lower courts are crying for alleged “unfair treatment” compared to how the SC “care” for employees of the Supreme Court (the head office).
These may not seem to be matters within the immediate concern of the new chief magistrate, but these altogether affect the performance of the institution whose leader made a promise of “servant leadership” and called on the Filipino to view the members of the judiciary and officials and court employees as the new “heroes in their dedication to duty.” The time is ripe and young to judge the new leader of the High Court. She has anyway eighteen days to put flesh into this plan of transformation.
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