Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo earlier today mapped out his plans, programs, and vision for the next five years that he will be at the helm of the Philippines Judiciary before the Board of Governors and members of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa).
Speaking as the guest of honor at the online celebration of the 60th Founding Anniversary of the Philconsa, the Chief Justice revealed that with the help of his fellow Justices of the Supreme Court, he plans to focus on two things: case decongestion and a technology-driven Judiciary.
Alluding to the issue of docket congestion in the High Court, the Chief Justice lamented that given the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under the Constitution, cases of every possible legal permutation have been filed before the Court in the guise of grave abuse of discretion. “However…even if some of the petitions are not given due course for being either procedurally or substantially flawed, they are given time— studied, discussed, and voted upon by the Court—before being denied or dismissed outright in a minute resolution. For this reason and many others, the docket of the Supreme Court has reached a record high 34 years into this Constitution,” he said.
The Chief Justice stated that the Supreme Court has thus embarked on a Case Decongestion Program in the hope of decreasing its backlog. He mentioned that the Court has amended its internal rules in order to comply with the Constitutional mandate of two years for the resolution of cases. He also cited the recent amendments of both the Rules of Civil Procedure and the Rules of Criminal Procedure, emphasizing in the latter “the use by the police of body-worn cameras in the implementation of warrants, maintaining the delicate balance between the constitutional rights of persons involved and the efficient operations of law enforcement officers.”
Chief Justice Gesmundo likewise highlighted the importance of selecting competent judges. “The majesty of the Court is in the integrity of its magistrates and the wisdom of their decisions—they, ever mindful of the impact these decisions, have, not only on the parties involved but also on society and the country, in general. The majesty of the Court lies in its devotion to render justice expeditiously, without fear or favor,” he said.
To this end, the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) has required non- judge applicants to undergo and pass the Prejudicature Program of the Philippine Judicial Academy (PhilJA), to determine their readiness and suitability for the position. The Chief Justice likewise mentioned the creation of the Judicial Integrity Board (JIB), which has the exclusive jurisdiction to investigate judicial misconduct and recommend appropriate sanctions when proper. Composed of retired Justices, the JIB assesses and evaluates disciplinary actions and conducts administrative investigations on members of the Judiciary.
“But perhaps the most significant of all innovations the Court has introduced is involving our brothers in the legal profession to the solution of the problem,” said Chief Justice Gesmundo. He mentioned Rule 7, Section 3 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that the lawyer’s signature certifies upon the courts that the case is filed not for any improper purpose.
“By incorporating this in our Rules, we hope to put a stop to the abhorrent practice by lawyers of giving our people false hopes through the filing of cases which serve no other purpose but to clog the dockets of our courts,” he said. “By doing so, we also hope to restore the waning trust of our people in the judicial system.”
Adverting to the importance of education as a foundation of law practice, Chief Justice Gesmundo spoke of the Court’s move to review and assess the status of the Philippine legal education system through the approval of A.M. No. 19-03-24-SC regarding the Law Student Practice Rule, which now allows externship in courts as a means of complying with the Clinical Legal Education Program of the law school; and of the Revised Model Curriculum for Law Schools, which was prepared by the Legal Education Board so that the courses being offered in law schools would be responsive to the demands of law practice.