How to avoid a Corona-Vizconde mishap
That’s the short title of this blog.
The full title is: How justices and judges can avoid meeting with litigants, their counsels, and parties with vested interest in pending cases so they can stay true to their judicial code of conduct—and keep the confidence of the public in the judiciary.
Remember that Lauro Vizconde revealed, in interviews and later in an affidavit, that he had met with top judge Renato Corona in no less than the chief justice’s chambers and that they discussed the murder case which, at the time, was up for decision in the Supreme Court.
That’s a no-no, it’s unethical, it’s simply not the proper thing to do!
I don’t know when this sacred rule started to be violated. But when I started to cover the Supreme Court in 2007, the practice seemed to be pervasive. The meetings would either take place in the offices of the justices or in a third party’s office, say, a well-connected businessman who would broker these clandestine encounters between litigants and lawyers.
Now, there is a way to stop this practice, thanks to technology. And the Court of Appeals is showing the way, taking the leadership in this pioneering program.
If you want to know what’s the status of a pending case, you do not have to talk to the justice or have coffee with him or her. No human contact needed.
You can do two things: go to the Court of Appeals compound in Padre Faura, Manila and look for the kiosk. There, on the touchscreen computer, you can enter the case number or the names of the parties to the case and you’ll get an answer. Either it’s Decided or Pending.
If it’s decided, you can then go to the decision and read for yourself. If it’s pending, there’s no other information available, though.
Or you can do this the easier way. From the comfort of your homes, offices, or Internet cafes, simply log on to http://ca.judiciary.gov.ph and do your search. You can also go to the Supreme Court website (http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph) which provides links to the CA website.
This is a breakthrough. The program, called the case status inquiry system, was launched in February, after three years of laying the groundwork.
The Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court started this together in 2007 but the latter faltered. Why? It’s a leadership thing. CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes believed in this reform and gave Justice Apolinario Bruselas, the chair of the computerization and library committee, full support.
In the Supreme Court, then Chief Justice Reynato Puno did not give it priority. Today, Corona has not shown any keen interest in pursuing this program.
My suspicion is: some in the High Court do not want the public to know that they are well past their deadlines in resolving cases. They are required to decide on cases within two years. If they follow the lead of the CA, then their caseloads will be under public scrutiny. I don’t think they will be comfortable with the spotlight on them.
What has this case management system done for the appellate court and its 69 justices? Wonders.
The tech-savvy Bruselas told me in an interview that this system:
* allows the CA to track cases, from filing to the entry of judgement;
* flushes out cases inadvertently filed or tucked away in drawers;
* helps justices manage their cases (provides a red flag in cases which are overdue
for decision; lets them know their caseload); and
* speeds up resolution of cases.
At any given time, the CA has about 18,000 to 19,000 active cases yearly, says Bruselas, while demonstrating on the computer how the system works. Internally, the CA justices can find out profiles of their cases, which are up for decision, for completion (meaning, some pleadings have not been submitted), and which have been promulgated. Simply by going online, the justices get an inventory of their cases and know what’s on their plate. And the CA presiding justice can call the attention of underperforming colleagues.
The system is still being refined so the CA welcomes your feedback.
Let’s hope that the CA pursues more integrity reforms so that it can gradually peel off its unsavory reputation. But that’s another story.
TAGS: case status inquiry system, Justice Apolinario Bruselas, Philippine Court of Appeals, Presiding Justice Andres Reyes