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Court orders being antedated?

/ 12:16 AM July 21, 2016

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is said to have been racking her brains on how best to solve the knotty problem of very slow delivery of justice in this country. The late Neal H. Cruz wrote in his Nov. 14, 2014, column in the Inquirer (“PH has slowest justice in the world”): “The Philippines, I am sure, is in the Guinness World Records as the country with the slowest justice system. Of this we should not be proud, but be ashamed.” Ten to 20 years to resolve a case is simply ridiculous. Millions of pesos have been spent on seminars and brainstorming sessions to seek and find ways of abbreviating trials and decision-making processes—but with very little success. Everyone feels those efforts are not even close to getting things done any faster.

That’s because the rule-makers have been  missing the obvious. One concern that deserves serious attention is right there under their noses. Lower courts are in the bad habit of antedating orders to conceal noncompliance with the time-bound rules on resolving matters before them. That is quite evident from the fact that while an order is, say, dated in January, it is being mailed only in May, or after a time lag of about four months. And it is unfairly made to appear that the fault lies with the lowly clerks and not with the judge or justice who is actually the one guilty of falsifying the date to avoid being held accountable for his own neglect or incompetence.

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This is happening  not only in the lower courts (metropolitan, municipal, regional courts and the Court of Appeals), but more notoriously in the Supreme Court itself. It is hard to imagine how mere clerks of that Court would dare delay action on Supreme Court matters by sitting on resolutions for months without mailing them to the parties concerned at the soonest possible time. Not that the Supreme Court really cares about any of those time-bound rules for, indeed, it does not—even if no less than the Constitution says it must resolve cases within two years. Its own antedating may be just for show that it, too, is trying to set a good, if fake, example.

Maybe it’s time to force the lowly clerks (the usual suspects) to do something patriotic and  blow the whistle on those overly-pampered honorable magistrates. There is bound to be a paper trail to show who is goofing around. Records cannot lie.  But would the good Chief Justice dare to step on the toes of her recalcitrant colleagues in the Supreme Court?  Political leaders of the Republic, both in the executive and legislative branches, have  never demonstrated enough “political will” to do what is best for this country, though the heavens fall.

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Et tu, Ma’am Chief Justice?

—RAMON NORMAN TORREFRANCA, [email protected]

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TAGS: Court of Appeals, courts, justice, Maria Lourdes Sereno, Supreme Court
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