Strengthen the Rule of Law

The strict implementation of the rule of law indicates the government’s seriousness in carrying out its responsibilities and obligations in a democratic environment, while extracting from the citizens the needed cooperation through compliance with existing laws and public policies.

1. Strengthen the Oversight Bodies

a) Expand OMB powers. The powers of the OMB shall be expanded to include examination of bank accounts, and the establishment of witness protection and benefits program under the office. The compensation and benefits for OMB employees themselves should likewise be enhanced, specifically, their exemption from the salary standardization law, ranking, retirement benefits (survivorship), and special allowances for lawyers; and

b) Pursue the passage of a charter for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). Enable CHR to perform its comprehensive monitoring function independently, which will contribute to the strengthening of the rule of law, government accountability and transparency. Examining performance of the executive, legislative and judicial, and other government functions against international norms and standards will lead to reforms and changes in policies, programs, and actions consistent with international human rights instruments.
2. Effective and Speedy Resolution of Cases in Courts and Quasi- Judicial Bodies

a) Improve investigative abilities of law enforcement agencies. The investigative capacity of law enforcement units, especially the NBI, needs to be raised dramatically. A greater availability of science-based evidence from law enforcers can only enhance the quality of final judicial outcomes. This will be attained through the establishment of world-class forensic laboratories in major regional centers and cities;

b) Rules for preliminary investigation reviewed and codified. The rules on preliminary investigation shall be restudied and codified to consider the expeditious resolution of cases;

c) Establish policy and guidelines in the determination of probable cause. The policy and guidelines on the elements and parameters of probable cause should be issued based on laws and jurisprudence to avoid the frivolous filing of cases and to reduce the currently high rate of dismissed cases. In this way, courts can focus on resolving high-impact cases while avoiding delays;

d) Strictly implement the reglementary period provided for by the rules for the resolution of cases. Timelines in the disposition of cases should be defined, strictly monitored and complied with. Delayed resolution of cases does not only wastes limited government resources but also harms the interest of all parties involved in the dispute;

e) Establish a case-monitoring system covering the entire justice system. A justice system infrastructure should be established to be able to comprehensively monitor the progress of cases from one agency to another. The system will interconnect existing case-monitoring systems for efficient and effective case management – such as the Warrant of Arrest Information System (WAIS) of the PNP; the CDIS of the NBI; the electronic Prosecution Case Management of the DOJ; the Judiciary Case Management System (JCMS) of the Supreme Court; and the Inmate Information System of the Bureau of Corrections, the Board of Pardons and Parole, and the Parole and Probation Administration. An effective monitoring system enforces accountability among service providers and thus encourage them to resolve their cases within the timelines provided by existing rules; and

f) Complete APJR projects on docket decongestion and judicial systems and procedures. The Supreme Court must complete its APJR project on docket decongestion and judicial systems and procedures, e.g., the Expansion of Court-Annexed Mediation; Expansion of e-JOW (Justice on Wheels Project); diminish caseload for each Court of Appeals’ (CA) Justice (Zero Backlog Project); nationwide implementation of the Enhanced Case Flow Management (eCFM) System which monitors the status of the cases to see whether they are proceeding as scheduled; full computerization of courts from Bangued, Abra to Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat; Pending integration of eCFM with Court Administration Management Information System (CAMIS); full coordination of all three CMIS stations of the CA; capacity building to enable electronic filing; Enhancement and expansion of the Case Management Information System (CMIS) project.

  1. Reduce the Cost of Litigation

a) Study the reduction of filing fees for cases; and

b) Adopt a standard format of transcript of stenographic notes (TSNs) to reduce the cost of litigation. This reduces the discretion of stenographers in the length of the transcripts.

  1. Avoid Law Suits Involving Government Contracts

a) Government contracts should be consistent with international instruments, existing laws, and public interest. The issuance of legal opinions by the Legal Staff and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel of the DOJ should be free from political interference and should be reviewed in accordance with domestic laws and public policies; and

b) Review and ensure that FTAs are consistent with national laws and public interest. These FTAs will be disseminated through a massive information campaign.

  1. Enhance the Integrity and Competence of Justices, Judges, Court Personnel and all other Officers of the Judiciary and Quasi-Judicial
    Bodies

To reaffirm the people’s faith in the judiciary, there is a need to enhance the integrity and competence of justices, judges, court personnel and all other officers of the judiciary and quasijudicial bodies by:

a) Weeding out the undesirables, both from the Bench and the Bar. To maintain public confidence in the competence and integrity of members of the judiciary, the government will intensify its efforts to weed out misfit and undesirable officials and personnel who fail to
uphold the dignity and integrity of the legal profession;

b) Continuing the Court Cleansing Initiative. The continuance of the court cleansing initiative will further strengthen the integrity of the judiciary and hopefully achieve an ethical judiciary that is above suspicion as envisioned by the Supreme Court;

c) Strengthening the Integrity of the Judiciary and the Integrity Development Review. Besides adjudicating cases and promulgating rules, the Supreme Court also has the power of administrative supervision over all courts and their personnel, including the power to takedisciplinary action against them when warranted. (CONST., Art. VIII, sec. 6). In 2009, it disciplined 66 Regional Trial Court judges; 27 Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Municipal Trial Court, and Municipal Circuit Trial Court judges; and 181 first and second level court personnel. Nor has the Supreme Court spared the rod in its own ranks. In 2009 it administratively disciplined 19 SC employees and dropped three others from the roll for being absent without leave.

In an unprecedented and unanimous per curiam decision, the Supreme Court also imposed a PhP500,000 fine on a retired SC justice for grave misconduct for leaking a confidential internal document of the Court (AM No.09-2-19-SC, In Re: Undated Letter of Mr. Louis C. Biraogo, February 24, 2009).

The SC has also disciplined 129 members of the Bar for various administrative offenses. In response to the pervasive drug menace, it has approved mandatory drug testing for all Judiciary employees as recommended by its Committee on Security (AM No. 09-3013-SC, Mandatory Drug Testing of All Supreme Court Employees, March 24, 2009. Information lifted from the 2009 Supreme Court Annual Report); and

d) Strictly implement agency-specific Codes of Conduct for law enforcers, prosecutors and judges. The specific administrative rules of conduct and behavior for various government agencies will be strictly enforced to maintain a competent workforce in government service.
6. Increase Resources for Justice Sector Agencies and Quasi-Judicial Bodies
a) Renew efforts to address the human capital shortage. A proactive and enhanced recruitment program shall be developed to attract brilliant young lawyers to justice sector agencies;

b) Implement continued capacity-building and updating of skills of law enforcers, prosecutors, public defenders and judges, and corrections officers. The government will complement the continued influx of knowledge and information with a sturdy policy of skills-enhancement and capacity-building of the members of our law enforcement units and the justice sector; and

c) Modernize and upgrade facilities for law enforcers such as the PNP and the NBI crime laboratories, forensic investigation facilities and equipment. Improve capacities of prosecutors and law enforcers particularly NBI agents in the investigation and prosecution of special cases involving economic or white-collar crimes such as money laundering, tax evasion, smuggling, human trafficking, violations of intellectual property rights and antitrust laws, illegal drugs and even cases involving extralegal killings and other human rights violations as well as violation of environmental laws.

  1. Improve Access to Justice of All Sectors of Society particularly the Vulnerable Groups Citizens should be made aware of their fundamental rights and be taught on how to access the services of government institutions involved in justice delivery when their rights are violated or when the enforcement of these rights are sought.

This is the essence of democracy and good governance – when people are empowered to exercise their rights and attain the progressive fulfilment of their needs.

a) Make full use of the services of government lawyers by deputizing them. Lawyers employed in various government agencies and instrumentalities will be imbued with the necessary authority to defend public interests in congruence with the functions of the OSG;

b) Provide tax credits for lawyers representing IPs and other vulnerable groups. Tax incentives will be provided for lawyers representing society’s vulnerable groups to encourage them to render adequate legal assistance and at the same time, promote equal access in the justice system;

c) Strengthen the Katarungang Pambarangay Law to resolve cases at the local level. The strengthening of the Katarungang Pambarangay Law will result in the speedy resolution of cases at the local level without going through the rigors of court processes. This will substantially improve the delivery of justice and facilitate the declogging of court dockets; and
d) Conduct training among judges, court personnel, prosecutors, public defenders and other pillars of the justice system in handling gender-sensitive cases, especially those involving violence against women and children (VAWC).
8. Promote the Use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). The government shall encourage and actively promote the use of ADR. Resorting to ADR could help decongest both court and prosecution dockets of cases which may be subject of ADR and allow the courts and the prosecution to dedicate their resources in resolving equally important cases brought before them. It will also spare both the parties and the government from litigation costs and the tedious judicial and administrative processes thus helping the parties achieve speedy and impartial justice.
a) Disseminate information on ADR. ADR will also develop potential active citizen’s participation since most ADR institutions are privateled. They promote the culture of peaceful negotiation and resolution of disputes by discouraging the adversarial manner of resolving conflicts such as court litigation;

b) Strengthen and support institutions involving ADR. Efforts should be stepped up to communicate and disseminate information about ADR as well as strengthen and support institutions involved;

c) Strengthen DOJ-OADR. The Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution (OADR), an agency recently created under the DOJ, shall be strengthened to be able to monitor and assess existing ADR mechanisms in the country and ensure that ADR programs conform with international standards and best practices. With an effective and efficient ADR mechanism in place, the country can join countries like Singapore as an arbitration hub in the region; and
d) Establishment of prosecutionlevel mediation. Resolving cases subject to ADR can help declog prosecution and court dockets as cases will be resolved before information is filed in court.

  1. Institutionalize Existing Justice Sector Coordinating Mechanisms Justice sector coordinating mechanisms such as the Judiciary, Executive and Legislative Advisory & Consultative Council (JELACC) and the Justice Sector Coordinating Council (JSCC) shall be institutionalized.

The JELACC serves as a forum for the discussion of issues relating to resource needs, recognizing the fact that there is a need to dialogue on crosscutting issues relating to justice sector performance.

On the other hand, the JSCC, which is composed of the Supreme Court, DOJ, DILG, PNP, BJMP and the DBM, is another forum for dialogue and preparation of joint justice sector reform programs and initiatives.

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