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Monday, June 24, 2024

Brace for court case backlog amid pandemic — Chief Justice

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Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo said he is expecting a backlog of cases in various regional trial courts due to lockdowns imposed by the government to control the spread of COVID-19.

In his speech during the convention of the Philippine Judges Association, Gesmundo  stressed that the physical closure of courts and the reduction in the number of court staff would certainly affect the resolution of cases in the lower courts.

“The restrictions imposed upon us, however, require us to be more creative and more adept in managing our courts. This early, we should already predict and prepare for an inevitable backlog of cases due to the lockdowns and mandated court operations with reduced workforces,” Gesmundo said.

According to the top magistrate, RTC judges should find ways to enable themselves to continue to adjudicate cases that have been brought before their courts.

“We must act quickly and stem the tide. Let us keep the increased dockets manageable by timely interventions,” he stressed.

One of the mitigating measures applied by the RTCs is prioritization.

It can be noted that the lower court should give primacy to cases involving women and children; cases with urgent reliefs such as applications for temporary restraining orders, writ of preliminary injunction, writ of habeas corpus, and writ of kalikasan; cases that involve government expropriation and infrastructure projects; and motions and interlocutory incidents that affect the liberty of the accused in criminal cases, and the integrity and dignity of human life in all cases.

Gesmundo  said the judges should also encourage alternative dispute resolutions (ADR).

“Let us strongly encourage litigants to resort to mediation, judicial dispute resolution, and other forms of ADR, in and out of court,” he added.

Gesmundo  urged judges to also maximize the use of technology to dispense justice in real-time, “even if not face-to-face when the people need it or when the circumstances demand it.”

The Chief Justice further said that he would anchor his tenure on four cornerstones — integrity, competence, probity, and independence in the next 5 years or until his mandatory retirement at the age of 70.

He expects the judges would also abide by these four cornerstones. “It is our individual and collective responsibility to observe strict compliance with these standards in delivering justice.”

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