Senator Juan Edgardo Angara has endorsed for plenary approval the bill creating “judges-at-large” positions in the lower courts to help unclog court dockets and speed up the resolution of cases.
In sponsoring the proposed Judges-At-Large Act of 2018, Angara said Filipinos could somehow expect the wheels of justice in the country to turn faster with the appointment of acting or assisting judges in regional and municipal trial courts across the country.
According to Angara, these so-called “judges-at-large”—who shall have no permanent salas and can be detailed by the Supreme Court to any lower court—would help ensure that “justice is not only served timely, but also swiftly.”
“This measure is but another step in our long-standing quest to make sure that justice is never delayed and denied in the Philippines,” Angara said in his sponsorship speech delivered at the Senate plenary.
“It also becomes part of our efforts to make justice real and alive to our people,” he said.
Angara strongly believes the measure is a solution to court delays brought about by the shortage of judges to hear cases.
Citing a study by the National Statistical Coordination Board from 2005 to 2010, Angara said that lower courts had an annual average load of 1,059,484 cases.
“This translates to over 4,000 cases per working day. Clearly such workload is impossible for the courts and its workers to handle, leading to a blatant affront on every person’s constitutional right to the speedy disposition of their cases,” he said.
The primary factors for this congestion is the lack of judges, he said, and the deployment of regular judges as assisting or acting judges.
According to Angara, appointing regular judges as assisting or acting judges has been proven to be unproductive and inefficient solution since those who are deployed often have to divide their attention between their own salas and the vacant or congested courts to which they have been assigned.
Latest data from the Senate Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office showed that out of the 37,230 total positions in the Supreme Court and the lower courts, 12,076 are unfilled—or roughly a third.
Since these judges-at-large have no salas, they can be deployed to any regional or municipal trial court in the country.
The bill provides that these judges-at-large shall have the same qualifications, salaries, privileges, allowances, emoluments, benefits, and rank as their counterpart judges.
To compensate for their mobile nature, they will also be given “displacement allowances” to cover their housing, food, transportation and other necessary expenses incurred during their detail to courts outside their places of residence.