The SC’s SPJI — the present and the future
As promised last Monday, let me now take up the present and future reforms espoused by the Supreme Court’s new “Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovation 2022-2027” (SPJI) via three desired “Outcomes”—“Efficiency, Innovation and Access” and their specific “objectives … and activities … anchored on four guiding principles: Timely and Fair Justice, Transparent and Accountable Justice, Equal and Inclusive Justice, and Technologically Adoptive Management.”
“OUTCOME 1–EFFICIENCY” has two objectives, the first being to “streamline court systems” via these activities: (1) Conduct a “top-to-bottom organizational review … to trim the fat within its ranks and purge non-efficient processes; (2) Create the “SC Management Committee … which shall (harmonize) all plans and programs … and a Planning and Development Office … as it’s Secretariat;” (3) Establish the “cornerstone” Caseflow Management Program … “by which courts convert their ‘inputs’ (cases) into ‘outputs’ (dispositions) … to address the problems of delay and congestion.”
The second objective is to “enhance … performance excellence” via these activities: (1) “Launch … the Judiciary Health and Welfare Program;” (2) “Institutionalize a socialized health insurance system;” (3) Establish a “Mental Health Unit in all court levels; (4) “Mandate free or subsidized annual physical and mental health examinations for judicial officials and employees; (5) Strengthen child-minding centers; (6) Develop tools to improve performance; (7) Develop data-driven performance metrics; (8) Strengthen judicial education; (9) Enhance legal education for lawyers; (10) Pursue greater ethical responsibility for lawyers; (11) Strengthen the Judicial Integrity Board; and (12) Operationalize the Judicial Marshals Office.
LET US PROCEED TO “OUTCOME 2–INNOVATION” which has four objectives, the first being to “modernize court processes and operations” via these activities: (1) “Capitalize artificial intelligence” (AI) for legal research; (2) Develop the E-library by improving its search engine through AI; (3) Establish an online learning platform; (4) Develop and deploy an eCourt System Version 2.0 and (5) Revise further the Rules of Procedures; and (6) Collate, compile and publish all court issuances.
The second objective is to “strengthen ICT governance, management, and operations” via these activities: (1) Formulate the Judiciary Enterprise ICT Governance Framework to align with the goals of the judiciary; (2) Develop a five-year ICT Strategic Plan for all courts nationwide; (3) Develop a network infrastructure over the four-tier judicial hierarchy; and (4) Develop a network infrastructure in the court system;
The third objective is to use data effectively in policy and decision-making via the single activity of “training the Court Management Office in data management, analytics, warehousing, and presentation.” The fourth objective is to upgrade information sharing “to ensure a seamless delivery of justice” by the single activity of adopting a “secure and reliable collaboration … with other agencies … with whom the courts routinely interact…”
FINALLY, LET US TAKE UP “OUTCOME 3–ACCESS” which has four objectives, the first being to “enhance public access to information and legal services” with its single activity of developing and deploying “intelligent platforms for self-help services, public assistance, and public access to court-related information and services … including the launch of social media.”
The second objective is to “strengthen legal aid initiatives” via these activities: (1) Institutionalize clinical legal education; (2) Strengthen the “legal aid programs and review of various public interest legal services…” (3) Conduct a “National Legal Summit on Clinical Legal Education of 2022;” (4) Set up a database of free legal aid providers; (5) “Retool the Enhanced Justice on Wheels Program;” and (6) Evaluate the impact of access to judicial processes of the marginalized.
The third objective is to “strengthen the foundations of Shari’ah Justice” with the following activities: (1) Constitute the Committee on Shari’ah and conduct an institutional review of the Shari’ah justice system; (2) Generate an evidence-based expansion of the mandate of Shari’ah Courts; and (4) Review the Shariáh Rules of Court.
The fourth objective is “gender fairness and inclusivity” with six activities: (1) Use gender-fair language; (2) Conduct gender-sensitivity and inclusivity workshops; (3) Issue guidelines for victim-sensitive courts; (4) Commission a study on gender representation and mobility; (5) Launch a “Her Story: Gender Award of Distinction;” and (6) Commission a study on feminism.
Though SPJI covers only five years, 2022-2027, in tandem with the term of CJ Gesmundo, nonetheless—being “the collective effort of all the 15 justices—it will “remain relevant … until 2036 … when the four youngest members” hang their black robes. Together with my retired colleagues, I wish the incumbents Godspeed as they embark on their noble journey.
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