Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta on Wednesday, Oct. 21, appealed to all municipal trial court judges to expedite resolution of cases despite the restrictions and difficulties spawned by COVId-19 and to actively police their ranks.
In his online message during the virtual convention of more than 600 municipal trial court judges, who are members of the Philippine Trial Judges League, Inc. (PTJLI), Peralta said:
“I continue to call on your sustained support in all of the Judiciary’s endeavors amid these uncertain times. Let us continue to be true to our commitment to be resilient for our people.”
He emphasized that the courts “are not shutting down in times of emergencies.”
“Our present circumstances call for everyone in the Judiciary to be resilient, and to rise to the occasion. We have to, because it is our firm commitment, now more than ever, to bring the courts closer to the people,” he stressed.
The Chief Justice pointed out that even before COVID-19, he had spearheaded efforts “towards and Judiciary which would be most responsive to the needs of court users and stakeholders.”
He cited the creation of the Judiciary Public Assistance Section (JPAS) which “serves as the official line of communication between the Judiciary, its stakeholders, and the general public.”
The JPAS, which is under the Office of the Chief Justice, “has been beefed up to address complaints, follow-ups, suggestions, and comments from employees, lawyers, court users, retirees, ordinary persons, and even as high as Cabinet members and top government officials, which have all been promptly responded to and acted upon,” Peralta said.
With the onset of COVID-19, the SC created a task force headed by Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez to address the concerns of judiciary members and employees.
During lockdowns and other restrictions imposed by the government, the SC authorized the online filing of pleadings and other required documents from litigants and court users, he said.
And to expedite resolution of pending and newly filed cases, the SC has authorized all trial court judges to conduct hearings and resolve cases, whether criminal or civil, through video conferencing, he also said.
Video-conferencing, he added, helped in the expeditious release of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) either through bail or recognizance and their release helped in the decongestion of jails in the country.
As of Sept. 18, 2020, Peralta said a total of a total of 71,439 PDLs have been released nationwide either through videoconference or regular hearings.
At the same time, Peralta said the SC has approved the Interim Rules on Remote Notarization of Paper Documents, which permits, in certain cases, the notarization of paper documents and instruments with handwritten signatures or marks, through the use of video conferencing facilities.
The SC, he said, recently launched the 2019 Amendments to the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure and the Revised Rules on Evidence.
“We now also have the Rules of Procedure for Admiralty Cases and the Rule on Administrative Search and Inspection under the Philippine Competition Act,” he said.
“The revisions, however, do not end there. Early this month, the SC approved the Revised Rules of Procedure for Intellectual Property Rights Cases as well as the Guidelines for the Imposition of Community Service as Penalty, which is in accordance with R.A. 13362 or the Community Service Act. Further, there is an ongoing revision of the Rules on Criminal Procedure,” he said.
“While the number of these procedural reforms may seem overwhelming, keep in mind that these amendments are all geared towards a more efficient delivery of justice through faster resolution of cases. Simplifying the flow of cases in court is especially more important in this time of pandemic,” he added.