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Hastening court trials wrong way to unclog court dockets

/ 08:46 PM June 25, 2013

The primordial aim of the Judicial Affidavit Rule is to hasten, if not fast-track, the resolution of cases. I believe this cannot be achieved by simply revising or amending Rule 1, Section 32, of the Revised Rules on Evidence, requiring that the “examination of witnesses presented in a trial or hearing shall be in open court xxx and the answer shall be given orally.” Efforts toward this end must be exercised with great caution, lest we sacrifice due process for haste.

Litigations do not end in trial, but in their resolution. Fast-tracking trials do not necessarily result in fast-tracking their resolutions. Cases submitted for resolution may disproportionately accumulate and build up vis-à-vis the disposals of the judge, such that the judge may, in the long run, simply be overwhelmed by the unresolved cases. The bottleneck is, therefore, merely shifted from trial to decision-making.

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For example, because of the abbreviated trial, 50 or more cases might be submitted for decision in a given month. How many of these can the judge resolve within the same period? Even if he would be able to resolve one case a day (which is almost impossible), he would only be able to resolve 20 cases a month, at five cases a week (weekends excluded). The 30 unresolved cases will be carried over the next month, making 80 cases due for resolution. The accumulation of unresolved cases will continue to build up and within a year,  you will have 360 unresolved cases that have long been submitted for resolution. In five years, you will have 1,800 unresolved cases.

The desire to expedite and fast-track the resolution of cases through abbreviated trial procedure, may, therefore, appear chimerical. This is apart from the possibility that procedural due process may suffer.

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I believe that what should be promptly addressed and afforded priority is the filling up of the vacancies in the organized and funded courts, and the organization and funding of more courts and the appointment of  judges thereto. This is the pragmatic and logical solution to unclog the dockets of courts, by rational distribution of cases to the various courts.

When we were doing our research during the impeachment proceedings against then Chief Justice Renato Corona, we learned that many organized and funded courts had been left vacant for years. The unspent budget allotted for these organized and funded but unfilled courts were realigned to a discretionary fund, the disbursements of which needed no prior Commission On Audit clearance. They were treated as “savings.”

The creation of more courts and appointment of more judges, rather than tinkering with the rules on procedure, are the logical way to address the age-old problem of clogged court dockets.

—REX G. RICO,

[email protected]

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