FROM an institution historically afflicted by corruption and inefficiency, the judiciary now hopes to set the highest standards in public service.
And with the continuation of the Supreme Court’s reform agenda, the judicial branch says it is seeing brighter years ahead.
Even embattled Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno sees 2018 as another “fantastic year” as the judicial programs for transparency and efficiency remain on track in attaining their ultimate objective: To make the judiciary the’’gold standard for public service.
“The people can be proud of our judiciary. We work with pride, with honor, with dignity,” Sereno told her colleagues in the high court during their Christmas party on Dec. 8.
Despite the impeachment process against her in the House of Representatives, Sereno vowed to continue the reform efforts aimed at speed uping the trial system in the country and to make the courts transparent and closer to the public.
“We look forward to more things to report to the nation,” Sereno said.
She believes that the formula to improve the services of the judiciary and address corruption in courts have already been laid down by the high court and all that’s left is to make sure the programs will be implemented well.
“The judiciary will continue with the implementation of its different judicial reform programs, ultimately shifting to automating its processes with the end in view of transforming the judiciary into the gold standard of public service,” Sereno said.
To speed up the resolution of cases and declog the court dockets, Sereno cited the phase-by-phase rollout of electronic courts or eCourts and automated hearing, the implementation of the continuous trial in the criminal courts, and the 2016 Revised Rules of Procedure for Small Claims Cases that raised the ceiling for claims that will be handled through summary procedure.
She says there are 298 courts that will benefit from the eCourt program, where judges receive pleadings via email. The high court targets to establish eCourts in all courts by 2020.
The continuous trial, on the other hand, is being applied in many high-profile cases, including the 2009 Maguindanao massacre case, to expedite their resolution.
Sereno likewise cited the “Hustisyeah”, a case- decongestion program launched in 2013 participated in by law students that led to the removal of 62 percent or 32,060 of the 51,825 priority cases targeted for disposition from the dockets.
Sereno says similar programs like the formulation of rules for commercial courts, including financial rehabilitation and insolvency, as well as the action plan to address the infrastructure problems of the courts have likewise led to positive developments.
For the transparency program, Sereno cited the high tribunal’s move to release the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth of justices to the public since the impeachment and ouster of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012 due to the misdeclared assets in his SALN.
She also recalled several cases where the high c ourt cracked its whip on erring judges and court personnel this year.
Sereno says the Court also gives priority to modernization through infrastructure projects, citing as an example the transfer of the high court complex from Padre Faura, Manila, to Bonifacio Global City in Taguig set for 2019 via a P1.28-billion project. The high court building along Padre Faura Street belongs to the University of the Philippines.
“The high court should have a building that is modern, disaster-resilient, technology-enabled and that will stand as the symbol of the Filipino sense of justice,” Sereno said.
In August, she also revealed the high court’s P1-billion project to build a judicial complex in Cebu City.
She says measures have also been taken to develop effective and efficient human resources.
“In order to produce efficient and effective delivery of justice, we must intently look into the qualifications of the required personnel through an intelligent input-output analysis,” Sereno said. “Included in this analysis is the definition of the terms of reference of many personnel in the judiciary; an effective system of rewards and punishment, training and standardized and manualized operating procedures. These are the game changers needed to professionalize our ranks.”
She says these reform programs were “founded on the character of the Good Judge and the Good Court Staff” and designed as a “character-dependent, principle-driven, and process-intensive reform path.”
“In the long term, the measured performance and the public perception of personnel in the judiciary should become the gold standard for public service,” Sereno said.