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A Pro-Poor Judiciary

by: Maria Josefina G. San Juan-Torres

Poverty is a grim reality that confronts the present Philippine landscape. Statistics gathered by the National Statistical Coordination Board reveal that in 2003, 30.4% of Filipinos live below the poverty line. In a survey conducted by the Social Weather Station (SWS ) in June 2006, six (6) out of ten (10) Filipino consider themselves poor.

To address this anathema through the eyes of the Judiciary, and realizing the need to provide equal access to justice at the grassroots, the Supreme Court through its Action Program for Judicial Reform (APJR), identified as a key strategy for good governance, the introduction of information campaigns to the public on the right of access by the poor to fair and quality justice.

Recognizing the great impact of mass media as an effective weapon for reform advocacy, the Supreme Court created the Task Force on Information Wallsheets chaired by Court of Appeals Associate Justice Noel G. Tijam, who conceptualized the dissemination of information wallsheets and brochures that would be distributed to all parts of the country. The wallsheets and brochures contain basic procedures on the filing of civil and criminal action in Philippine courts, understandable in plain language and matched with illustrative diagrams. An innovative feature of this information publication is that it is presented from the litigant’s point of view – practical and visual -- replete of legalese jargons – simply put, user friendly. Indeed, a layman’s roadmap of the justice system.

The Supreme Court Committee on Computerization and Library, chaired by Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, developed new features in the existing Judicial Reform Network (JRN21) website . The website is accessible to the public providing highlights of judicial events and the Judiciary’s priorities for action.

In a milestone effort of the Judiciary to be counted in the global movement against poverty by providing equal access to justice by the poor, responsible parties of the APJR network recently gathered last April 3, 2007 and witnessed the formal launching of the Information Wallsheets and Brochures on the Stages of Civil and Criminal Actions and the re-launching of the enhanced APJRN and JRN21 Websites.

As a frontline institution, the Judiciary has undoubtedly proven, through these information literature and the enhanced JRN21 websites, that it has risen to the challenge of responsive judicial governance and social justice, a landmark of the Court’s best practices. Still, the Judiciary continues to go that extra mile in mainstreaming pro-poor reform initiatives in the Philippine justice system.




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