The Judiciary, through the Society for Judicial Excellence (SJE), honors six judges and a clerk of court during the 28th Awarding Ceremonies for the 2019 Search for Outstanding Judges and Clerks of Court to be held on Friday, October 4, 2019, 4:00 pm at the Rigodon Hall, Manila Hotel.
Chosen from nominees nationwide, this year’s awardees are Judge Gener M. Gito of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 92, Balanga City, Bataan as the Chief Justice Cayetano Arellano Awardee; Judge Virgilio V. Macaraig of RTC Branch 37, Manila as the Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos Awardee; Judge Raymond Reynold R. Lauigan of RTC Branch 1, Tuguegarao City, Cagayan as the Chief Justice Ramon Avanceña Awardee; Judge Nerina Casandra N. Anastacio-Mendinueto of Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) Branch 22, Manila; Judge Eriza P. Pagaling-Zapanta of MeTC Branch 4, Manila; Judge Belen G. Salespara-Carasig of MeTC Branch 88, Parañaque City; and Atty. Charlene Clara G. Mendoza of RTC Branch 84, Batangas City as Outstanding Branch Clerk of Court for the Second Level Courts Clerk of Court (Single Sala)/Branch Clerk of Court (Multi-Sala) category.
This year’s Board of Judges is composed of Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio as chairperson; (Ret.) SC Associate Justice Romeo J. Callejo, Sr. as vice-chairperson; and SC Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta; Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA) Chancellor (Ret.) SC Associate Justice Adolfo S. Azcuna; (Ret.) SC Associate Justices Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez and Minita V. Chico-Nazario; (Ret.) Court of Appeals Justice Aurora Santiago Lagman, and Atty. Alicia A. Risos-Vidal from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines as members.
Judge Gito was nominated by no less than Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez. He was appointed as Presiding Judge of RTC Branch 92, Balanga City in July 2014. Despite his youth, he was designated as 2nd Executive Judge in the same city. During this time, he also served as Pairing Judge and Acting Presiding Judge of two other RTC Branches in Malolos, Bulacan. Despite the additional responsibilities, he was able to reduce the caseload in his Branch from more than a thousand cases to less than a hundred in a span of three years. He also serves concurrently as Acting Presiding Judge of RTC Branch 256, Muntinlupa City.
Judge Macaraig is known to be a stickler to the mandate of speedy disposition of cases, the Continuous Trial System, the One-Day Witness Examination Rule, the Judicial Affidavit Rule, and observance of proper court decorum. In August 2016, he was designated to try and resolve 100 drugs cases unloaded from RTC Branch 53, Manila to help decongest the docket. As of August this year, there are only six criminal cases and 27 civil cases pending in his sala. He currently serves as the Executive Judge of RTC Manila and is one of the two executive judges in the Philippines who can issue search warrants enforceable throughout the archipelago for violations of heinous crimes, R.A. No. 10591 (Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act), R.A. No. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002), Tariff and Customs Code, and Intellectual Property Code, committed outside his territorial jurisdiction.
For the past five years, Judge Lauigan was able to efficiently dispose of 1,674 cases with an equivalent disposal rate of 91.89%. He has disposed of an average of 28 cases per month and has already decided 193 drugs cases. As of August 2019, he only has 144 cases left in his court docket including 11 drugs cases. All his active cases are below five years of age. He has received the Dangal ng Bayan Award by the Civil Service Commission Regional Office No. 2 and an award for “exemplary dedication and incorruptible performance of duty as a Judge” by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. He was a member of the Technical Working Group (TWG) that drafted the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure.
Upon her assumption as Presiding Judge of her Branch, Judge Pagaling-Zapanta inherited 85 pending cases with more than 600 cases yet to be raffled. In addition, 2,281 cases have already been raffled to her sala since August 2014. As of August 2019, there are only 102 pending cases in the court’s docket. In the past five years, she had simultaneously presided over two other courts aside from her station—as Pairing Judge of Branch 3, Manila and as Presiding Judge for the Assisted Court, Branch 36, Quezon City. In 2017, she was awarded as one of the Outstanding Judges in the First Level Courts by the city of Manila.
Judge Anastacio-Mendinueto was able to dispose of 88.72% of the cases raffled to her sala with a clearance rate of 126.47% for the year 2018. As Assisting Court Judge for MeTC Branch 31, Quezon City, her case disposal rate for the same year was 112.06%. To date, all the raffled cases of almost 1,700 cases from the said Quezon City court under the Assisting Court Project have been fully disposed. She was one of the finalists during the 2015 Judicial Excellence Awards and has been awarded as one of the Outstanding Metropolitan Trial Court Judges of Manila in the same year.
In 2017, Judge Salespara-Carasig was appointed as a member of the TWG for the Revision of the Rules of Procedure in Election Contests before the Courts Involving Elective Municipal and Barangay Officials (A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC). Her station, MeTC Branch 88, Parañaque City, is among the pilot courts for Speedy Trial and Continuous Trial of Criminal Cases. The court was also designated as Special Election Court for Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Officials.
As clerk of court, Atty. Mendoza sees to it that notices are promptly prepared within the day and released latest by the next day in order to comply with the timelines set forth by the Revised Guidelines for the Continuous Trial of Criminal Cases. Results of the judicial audit on August 28, 2018 showed that Branch 84, Batangas City had a clearance rate of 246.94% and a disposition rate of 77.07%. The court’s docket, which almost reached 300 since 2013, has been reduced to 39 cases as of June 2019 through Atty. Mendoza’s effective supervision of the staff who performed their tasks well, effective case management, and speedy disposition of cases by the Presiding Judge. (Courtesy of the SC-Public Information Office)