Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo and Australian Ambassador to the Philippines H.E. Steven J. Robinson, AO met on Friday, March 25, 2022, to discuss judicial reforms and how the Philippine Judiciary faced head on the COVID-19 health crisis to ensure an uninterrupted, effective, and efficient delivery of justice.
During Ambassador Robinson’s courtesy call on the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices at the Supreme Court Session Hall, Chief Justice Gesmundo shared with him the Supreme Court’s vision of a technology-driven Judiciary.
The Chief Justice shared, among others, that the Court would be pilottesting its Judiciary Electronic Payment Solution (JEPS) in 20 first level courts nationwide. This means that the payment of fees in selected trial courts nationwide, not only for small claims cases, can now be made online. The JEPS aims to make the assessment and payment of legal fees and other collections of the Judiciary more convenient by providing the litigants, their counsels/representatives, and persons requesting for clearances, certifications, and other services from the court the option to pay online through major banks as conduits.
Chief Justice Gesmundo also mentioned Justice Real Time: A Strategic Plan for Judiciary Innovations 2022-2026, a policy document which aims to describe and lay down the clear guiding principles, definite workplan and portfolio of projects, and reasonable target outcomes that will support the comprehensive and integrated reform initiatives in the Philippine Judiciary for the period of 2022 to 2026.
The Chief Justice also shared that the Supreme Court posted a 110% clearance rate in Judicial Cases for the year 2021. It can be recalled that based on data provided by the Office of the Clerk of Court En Banc and the Division Clerks of Court, the Court had a total case output of 3,975 judicial cases from January 2021 to December 20, 2021, which meant a clearance of 110%.
Clearance rate is the rate of total disposed cases vis-à-vis new cases (Total Case Output/New Cases). A one-hundred percent clearance rate means that the Court’s total case output is equal to the number of incoming new cases and is “keeping up” with the new cases filed. This is significant because at one hundred ten percent, this shows that the Court has succeeded in decreasing its backlog of cases. At the start of the year 2021, there were a total 8,391 pending judicial cases.
With 3,603 new cases and one (1) reinstated case, the total case input was 11,995 (8,391 pending cases as of December 31, 2020; 3,603 new cases; 1 reinstated case). With the disposal of 3,975 cases, there are now only 8,020 pending judicial cases as of December 20, 2021. Thus, dividing 3,975 (total case output) by 3,603 (new cases) would equal to a 110% clearance rate for judicial cases. Likewise, the Chief Justice shared how the Court faced head on the COVID19 pandemic to protect its employees by establishing an Emergency Care Unit at the SC-CA Building last year. He also mentioned the Court’s partnership with the 2 Philippine National Red Cross and the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLSCSB) for the use and availment of the temporary isolation and quarantine facility at DLS-CSB in Taft, Manila for judicial employees who were sick with COVID-19 and working in the ‘National Capital Region (NCR) Plus’ bubble.
He also underscored the conduct of videoconferencing hearings to ensure that the wheels of justice turn continuously in an effective and efficient manner.
Chief Justice Gesmundo expressed his gratitude to the Australian Government for being one of the developmental partners of the Supreme Court in some of its judicial reform projects.
For his part, Ambassador Robinson said that he feels “very honored” on his first occasion to the Supreme Court, and thanked Chief Justice Gesmundo for assembling a group of Associate Justices and dignitaries to conduct a fruitful discussion. The Ambassador affirmed the Australian government’s commitment to support the Court’s reform programs.
In 2018, the Sandiganbayan and the Australian Embassy launched the Sandiganbayan Modernization and Transparency Initiative. The Australiansupported program includes a fiscal management and procurement law workshop, and the court calendar digitization. Through this program, the Sandiganbayan will improve its efficiency, competency, and transparency in its hearings.
Chief Justice Gesmundo was joined by Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando, Justice Henri Jean Paul B. Inting, Justice Rodil V. Zalameda, Justice Mario V. Lopez, Justice Jhosep Y. Lopez, Justice Japar B. Dimaampao, Justice Jose Midas P. Marquez, and Justice Antonio T. Kho, Jr. in welcoming Ambassador Robinson. Also present were Philippine Judicial Academy Chancellor (Ret.) Justice Rosmari D. Carandang, Court Administrator Raul B. Villanueva, Assistant Court Administrator and Chief of Public Information Office Brian Keith F. Hosaka, Deputy Clerk of Court and Judicial Reform Program Administrator Laura C.H. Del Rosario, and Deputy Clerk of Court and Chief Technology Officer Jed Sherwin G. Uy.
Ambassador Robinson was accompanied by Mr. Thanh Le, Development Counsellor; Mr. Paul Harrington, Development First Secretary; Mr. Pablo Lucero, Portfolio Manager; Ms. Ria Go Tian, Senior Program Officer; Ms. Andie Fidelino, Research Officer; Atty. George Carmona, Judicial Reform Specialist; and Atty. Damcelle Cortes, Local Context Specialist.
It was the second time that the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court were paid an in-person courtesy visit by a diplomat this year, following the easing of protocol restrictions in the National Capital Region. Last month, U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Heather Variava paid a courtesy call on the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Court. Minimum health protocols such as physical distancing and wearing of marks were observed during these visits.