Where is ‘Madam Arlene’?
In his March 19 column, former chief justice Artemio Panganiban wrote about “Duterte’s second SC appointee,” Noel Tijam vice Arturo Brion who retired in December last year and received all privileges and full benefits in millions of pesos despite leaving a backlog of 618 cases (as against the normal caseload of “only” 550 cases).
This is really one of the major things that bedevil our justice system. There is no accountability for subpar performance or plain indolence on the part of Supreme Court justices, the highest court of the land supposedly exercising moral ascendancy. In the lower courts, backlogs pose stumbling blocks to a full availment of retirement benefits by trial judges and appellate justices. This blatant double-standard hypocrisy should end.
A good example from the Supreme Court has become wishful thinking. Its justices have been ignoring the constitutional mandate for them to resolve cases within two years. Given that hubris, they certainly consider themselves above and exempt from all time-bound rules they impose on all lower courts. Isn’t that an impeachable offense for “culpable violation of the Constitution”?
Worth noting, too, is what Panganiban revealed: 50 new cases are assigned to each justice monthly—that means around 750 new cases are filed in the Supreme Court every month. Why are we such a litigious people? Half, if not most, of these cases have past precedents to reckon with and should have been disposed of more quickly, thereby reducing backlogs.
Such speedy dispositions should discourage frivolous cases. Cases of so-called first impression or transcendence requiring hard and time-consuming deliberations are rare and far between. They do not clog court dockets per se. The real buggers are the regular cases with “well-settled jurisprudence” written all over them. Why they continue to take eons to resolve is really baffling—and very frustrating.
So, where the heck is that “Madam Arlene”?
JEREMIAS H. TOBIAS, firstname.lastname@example.org
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