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If only it were true …

12:01 AM November 18, 2015

Lawyer Ricardo Romulo wrote: “[R]eports show that in the Philippines, it takes an average of 842 days at the trial court level to resolve a contractual dispute… from the time the complaint is filed up to the time actual payment is received by the winning party” (“Enforcing contracts through arbitration,” Opinion, 10/31/15). That’s roughly two years and four months of litigation. He noted that our Asian neighbors take about half as much time, or even much less, to deliver similar justice. That was some eye-opener—not so much for the revelation that we have the most sluggish justice system in Asia as for the surprise that it’s really not as bad as Filipinos thought!

Romulo most probably got his facts and figures from resource persons who never got muddied in the trenches. I have worked as a paralegal for a law firm for so many years, done errands and followed up cases where even simple side issues took eons to resolve. Less than three years from filing to getting paid? If that is really the “average” speed at which cases are being disposed of, the backlog would never have been as horrible as it is today! But res ipsa loquitur. It just isn’t how things are in reality.

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Here’s the real deal on the ground where cases are actually fought: The general expectation is from five to eight years—from the filing of the case to the rendition of the regional trial court’s decision. But wait, eight out of 10 cases don’t end there. They go to the Court of Appeals where they marinate for another five to eight years! But wait, there’s more! Brought to the Supreme Court, the cases hibernate there for eight to 10 years or more. And although the Constitution tells the Supreme Court to dispose of cases within two years only, it simply ignores that command.

Given the obscene cost of filing cases nowadays, one would think he should at least get on the “express lane” in his search for justice! Never mind Singapore’s record of 150 days, South Korea’s 230 days, Hong Kong’s 360 days, etc. Yes, Sir Romulo, less than three years from start to finish would be more than good enough for this country. Allelujah! If only it were true…

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—JANNO MARKO MONTECRISTO, [email protected]

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