Justice Lazaro-Javier Presides Over CACJ Meeting on Cross-Border Disputes Involving Children
July 27, 2023
Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier (seated, fifth from left) represented the Philippines at the Meeting of the Council of ASEAN Chief Justices (CACJ) Working Group on Cross-Border Disputes Involving Children held in Singapore on July 18. (Courtesy of the CACJ)
Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier represented the Supreme Court of the Philippines at the Council of ASEAN Chief Justices (CACJ) Meeting of the Working Group on Cross Border Disputes Involving Children (CBDIC), held on July 18, 2023, at the Singapore State Court.
Justice Lazaro-Javier, Co-Chairperson of the Working Group, presided over the Meeting along with her Co-Chairperson, Justice Debbie Ong, Judge of Appellate Singapore Supreme Court and Presiding Judge of the Family Justice Courts of Singapore. Justice Lazaro-Javier addressed the delegates from the ASEAN region, underscoring that the Meeting was a unique opportunity to connect and cultivate deeper understanding of each ASEAN country’s cultures, best practices, legal systems, and processes with the end goal of elevating coordination in the region, especially concerning CBDIC.
Justice Lazaro-Javier also highlighted the strong commitment of the Philippines to uphold the best interests of children, as fortified under the Court’s blueprint of action for judicial reforms, the Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations 2022-2027 (SPJI). The SPJI envisions a more efficient, innovative, and accessible justice system for all, especially and including Filipino children. The ASEAN delegates were provided copies of the SPJI for their reference.
Justice Lazaro-Javier further shared in her address that the Court will soon issue the Rules for Court-Annexed Family Mediation, which shall integrate among its provisions the CACJ Code of Ethics for Mediation.
Justice Ong, for her part, noted how each delegate comes from rich and diverse jurisdictions, stating that though each ASEAN country respects each other’s laws and cultures, they can come together to share their respective works and ideas, and put together a common protocol, signifying the ASEAN’s common aspiration.
The Working Group then proposed two projects: (1) formulating a common procedure for administrative verification of foreign court orders and (2) putting up an online Resource Page for ASEAN mediators for CBDIC.
The crafting of a common procedure for administrative verification of foreign court orders was proposed to aid closer co-operation between ASEAN judiciaries; facilitate effective case management; and expedite resolution of CBDIC to bring closure to affected families. The verification shall be limited to the substance, and not the content, of court orders. It shall be left to each ASEAN jurisdiction to determine the legal effect of such administrative verification and the subsequent steps to be taken once such verification is received. The proposed procedure will be useful where a party challenges the authenticity of a foreign court order.
The Working Group also agreed to report to the CACJ the former’s intention to create a Resource Page on the proposed list of mediators and organizations that provide mediation for CBDIC. The Resource Page, which shall be posted on the ASEAN Judiciaries Portal (AJP), aims to assist parties in locating and selecting mediators who can be appointed expeditiously when cross-border family disputes arise. In addition to links to relevant websites and contact details of mediators, the Resource Page shall also include information on the respective mediation procedures of each ASEAN country. Submission of the list of mediators for the Resource Page will be voluntary. The Resource Page will be updated periodically, as necessary.
It was noted that only Singapore and Thailand manifested the existence of family mediators in their respective jurisdictions. The rest of the ASEAN countries, including the Philippines, currently only have general mediators.
According to Justice Lazaro-Javier, the two projects proposed by the Working Group are welcome developments in the Philippine legal landscape as the same are in tune with the SPJI’s four guiding principles in the Judiciary’s delivery of justice: (1) timely and fair; (2) transparent and accountable; (3) equal and inclusive; and (4) technology adaptive. Through online platforms like the AJP where the proposed Resource Page shall be posted, relevant information, such as the procedure of the ASEAN states concerning CBDIC, will be easily accessible anytime by any party regardless of their country. This allows the free flow of information which will contribute to a more efficient and inclusive access to justice.
The Meeting was adjourned after the Working Group agreed to postpone the 3rd ASEAN Family Judges Forum to 2025, to be held in conjunction with the Hague Conference on Private International Law Judicial Roundtable.
Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier was assisted in the Meeting by Court of Appeals Associate Justice Angelene Mary W. Quimpo-Sale; Judge Sita Jose Clemente, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 16, Malolos City, Bulacan; and officials from the Office of Justice Lazaro-Javier: Ms. Lucia F. Argana, Atty. Krizia Lissa C. Lazaro, Atty. Patricia N. Custodio, and Atty. Kristel Shayne M. Sigua.
The CACJ held meetings in Singapore on July 17 to 18, 2023 for the following groups: (1) Study Group on the Future Work of the CACJ, attended by Supreme Court Associate Justice Rodil V. Zalameda; (2) Working Group on the AJP, attended by Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Midas P. Marquez; and (3) Working Group on CBDIC, attended by Justice Lazaro-Javier. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)