SC party to delaying of cases
In his column “Maguindanao massacre: acid test for justice system,” (Opinion, 8/2/15), former chief justice Artemio Panganiban decried the “delay in the delivery of quality justice” as one of the factors that corrode the people’s faith in the judiciary. But while he focused on the cumbersome proceedings in the courts below and the dilatory tactics of lawyers (as is happening in the still-pending Maguindanao massacre trial), the Supreme Court itself contributes to such delay in a much larger way than any legal expert has the guts to say.
The common perception is, while there may be a remedy against the slowness of the trial proceedings below, none is available when the delay occurs in the highest court of the land. Courts below can be held accountable for not adhering to the time limitations for decisions to be made: The Supreme Court has fined or dismissed judges and justices for not living up to the constitutional mandate. But when cases remain pending in the Supreme Court itself for “like an eternity,” what can anyone do? Absolutely nothing.
Sure there is impeachment on the grounds of “culpable violation of the Constitution” which, in no uncertain terms, also requires Supreme Court justices to make their decisions within two years only. But that’s practically wistful thinking. In the first place, they are the only ones who can say what the Constitution means. If they read that period to mean only a “suggestion,” not a command, insofar as it concerns them, then that’s the end of it! In the second place, that’s hardly a political issue for Congress to want to get mixed up with.
Take our family case, for instance. It is presently pending in the Supreme Court. Our lawyer has past doctrinal rulings in our favor at his finger tips and some are already coming out of his ears! It took the Court of Appeals less than two years to see how simple the legal issue really was. It ruled in our favor.
In the Supreme Court, the case has been pending for more than five years and still nothing! Our lawyer says in jest: Relax lang, wala pa namang 10 years ah! Our foreign investors had long pulled out of our proposed joint venture. We cannot help wondering: Is that “Arlene” woman still in business? What happened to the Supreme Court investigation of her shenanigans? Also nothing?
Perhaps Panganiban was just being polite. But does he not feel obliged as a patriot to point out what ails the Supreme Court? Having been there, his observations carry more weight and respect. The volumes of cases are a given; there is not much anyone can do about that. But case management is sorely wanting in the system: There are surely easy cases that can be resolved more quickly, and yet they seem to be lumped together with the hard ones that take up so much time. As a consequence, the clogged dockets just keep getting worse.
We, as part of the public who have grown sick and tired of the problem, cannot help thinking—and now saying—out loud that Panganiban, with due respect, may be barking up the wrong tree! We realize it is so hard to deal with justices with such big heads who think each of them is “supreme” and cannot be dictated upon by their colleagues to move things faster! But, for heaven’s sake, something has got to give! Can’t the present chief justice do anything about it?
—MARIA MARGARITA AYTONA, [email protected]
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