Merit system for retiring SC justices | Inquirer Opinion

Merit system for retiring SC justices

/ 05:02 AM April 08, 2021

This is regarding the commentary of retired Supreme Court justice Francis Jardeleza (“The next chief justice’s first task,” 4/5/21), where he wrote about the sentiments of several business organizations, law associations, etc., urging an end to the curse the judicial system in this country seems to be forever hobbled by: The delay in the disposition of cases. The Supreme Court, they said, should “lead by example and treat the periods prescribed by the Constitution to decide cases as uniformly mandatory across all levels of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court.”

As nearly everyone knows, the Supreme Court is the No. 1 violator of that constitutional prescription. Thus, as far as “betrayal of the public trust” is concerned, most of the high court’s justices would be impeachable and should be found guilty of “culpable violation of the Constitution.” With delusions of “absolute supremacy,” they fancy themselves to be infallible even in their “misinterpretation” of the fundamental law. By some legerdemain, they have virtually abrogated the constitutional mandate for them to decide cases within two years only. Cases there could remain, and indeed, have been pending for 20 years or more.

Is the newly appointed Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo up to the task? He was part of the committee that revised the 1997 Rules of Court and came up with the 2019 amendments to those rules, mostly governing Civil Procedure in the lower courts. In a message appended to that work, he wrote that the amendments would now “address court docket congestion, reduce trial delays, and improve court management,” and hopefully rid the judiciary of that curse. But, ominously, he said nothing about the docket congestion in the Supreme Court itself.

It cannot be denied that delay in the disposition of cases has really gotten out of control. The Supreme Court can churn out all kinds of amendments to the rules to speed up the trial of cases; but if it continues to refuse to see its own faults, the scourge will remain. Why not apply a merit system in the granting of retirement benefits to its members? Those reaching retirement age (70) should face diminution or forfeiture of benefits depending on the amount of backlog they leave behind. That should make judges think twice about the Supreme Court being a “jumping board” to a life of wealth, perks, and privileges, all courtesy of taxpayer money.

Jan Vincent L. Martinez,[email protected]

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