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How to avoid a Corona-Vizconde mishap

By MARITES DAÑGUILAN VITUG

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.

CATEGORY: Blogs, Marites Dañguilan-Vitug
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  1. Johnny Lin says:

    Transparency, at last, integrity preserved; wheels of justice at work. Kudos to Justice Andres Reyes leadership!


  2. being able to see the alone the status of cases pending in any court is not a fail-safe measure prevent “backdoor” wranglings.

    putting them online with sypnopsis of the case, the arguments of contending parties, their lawyers and the issues involved will likely minimize judicial “hoodluming”, because the public will be aware of the unvarnished facts and the contentious issues involved and not only of the summation of the case as capsulized in the decision.

  3. i mean, being able to see alone is not a fail-safe measure to prevent “backdoor” wranglings.

    my favorite professor said that if the court takes the position of one litigant as against the other, all it has to do is to lift the arguments of the favored party and ignore the counterpoints of the other.

    with the public reading both arguments, it is hard for the court to make a one-sided argument because the public will be able to see the other argument.

  4. Johnny Lin says:

    Jcc
    There is a website; check if your arguments are answered since the article implied that decisions could be read. At least, this is a start opening judicial proceedings thus improvement is expected.

  5. Rvl Gimenez says:

    They can also heed Atty. Te’s advice: EAT LUNCH ALONE. :-)

  6. no not now. in fact she was seen eating budol-fight with her staff acrosss large table prepped with banana leaves and food above it. still part of the media psy-war.

    you see also those “mahihirap” offering her flowers.

    basic problem in our psyche: circus is not limited during fiestas. they are with us everyday.

  7. Rvl Gimenez says:

    LOL!!! Quite a sight, that must have been, jcc! The lengths that these people go…!

    Thanks for that heads up, pal. :-)

  8. Johnny Lin says:

    Jcc, Whats budol fight? Pls educate me?

  9. This is a great leap forward to accountability and simple organization! If the objective of the system is to serve the public then it is the way to go.

    Who is the programmer and is this program available to other Judiciary centers like for instance the Municipal and Regional Trial Courts?

  10. Johnny,

    I saw on TV a mass held at the ombudsman office the day after Sen. Guingona asked Merci to resign and they have also a lunch there on long table with food on top of banana leaves and she was eating with bare hands with officemates and supporters. Some people came with flowers to offer her believed to be from the “masa”.

    http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20110308-324101/Ombudsman-employees-rally-round-Gutierrez

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