By J. Mariano C. Del Castillo
YEAR 1936 saw the birth of the Court of Appeals, exactly 72 years
ago. Since that fateful year during the American colonial era,
this revered judicial institution has resolved millions of
contentious social, administrative, political, and legal issues.
It has witnessed rallyists clamoring outside its walls. It has
received outstanding visitors and has been home to numerous legal
luminaries. It has been the workplace of thousands of court
employees, both rank and file and officers of the Court. It has
survived controversies, both internal and external. It has
celebrated the most joyous national events and has mourned with the
nation on the saddest of days like the assassination of Ninoy Aquino,
terrorist attacks, national disasters, the passing away of Popes and
other international leaders, etc.
a relatively young Associate Justice of this Honorable Court, I
assumed office seven years ago. And ever since, these buildings
and this compound has become a second home to me. In my
interaction with various PJs and other colleagues of mine, I saw how
my own individualism and fiercely independent-minded personality
could both clash and blend with those of other Justices and fellow
workers at the CA. However, this is not surprising, considering
the different backgrounds we all come from: diverse law
schools, different social and cultural backgrounds, varied interests,
ideals and values.
being said, permit me to share my views and insights on the workings
of the CA. When it comes to administrative matters, they are
mostly left with the Presiding Justice and the Clerk of Court
together with a variety of offices and support services. The
Justices rarely venture into the daily running of this Court’s
administration, unless requested by the PJ or only if a matter
affects them personally. With our busy schedules, we barely
have time to mingle with staff or socialize with the other Justices.
Except for the occasional birthday celebration, or during the
Christmas holidays, anniversaries or commemorations, and some en
banc sessions, our get-togethers are practically nil. One
can’t help but feel that there must be very little unity here.
One could sometimes wish that we could be more like a family.
then before we know it – another anniversary! And this
Court of Appeals is suddenly turning 72 years old since its founding
date of February 1, 1936! For an institution which acts as one
of the watchdogs of the law, it is relatively young. We the
Justices must continue to fulfill our primary task of speedily
resolving cases in our dockets. Indeed, there has been a big
improvement in the Court’s efficiency in disposing cases.
Thanks to the praiseworthy performance of the people behind it.
But if this august institution is to mark itself as a
well-functioning Court, it will have to progress and strengthen
will the CA do this? In my humble opinion, a vital area to work
on is to put our workplace in better shape. We, the members of
this Court, can achieve this goal by helping one another and putting
ourselves at the disposition and under the able leadership of our
well-loved Presiding Justice Choy Vasquez.
any doubt, all of us will agree that the entire Court of Appeals
compound needs a major makeover. It needs a beautification
program, not only of its buildings and infrastructures, but also a
significant improvement of basic facilities for the physical and
psychological well-being, not only of the Justices, but of all the
employees and workers in this Court.
look at the 3rd and 4th floors of the Main Building! Any
passerby from Maria Orosa Street would feel sorry for us just by
looking at the soot-colored and damaged paint job of a fire-ravaged
edifice. Look at the disparity of architectural styles of the
facades of the Main Building, Centennial Building and the Annex-I
Building. Not to mention the interiors, mostly dilapidated,
with office spaces crowded and cramped-up.
about the Court’s IT (Information Technology) and filing
systems? Many computers being used by the CA staff are
obsolete by today’s standards. Even the one assigned to
me is a nine-year old Pentium III model which would not be able to
launch the new MS Vista. The Lex Libris we are using is still
the outdated 2005 version. And what happened to the Lot A
project which is supposed to connect us to the World Wide Web?
Everyone now is going broadband and wireless! What about us!?
take a look at the Court of Appeals Library. It is in dire need
of new law books, badly needed by our Justices to keep up with the
dynamics of jurisprudence! It goes without saying that if the
roof is leaking, it has to be sealed and fixed. If the walls
have holes, they must be repaired. And of course, a final touch
of fresh paint always adds a brand new look to any room or space.
hollowed halls of justice do not always smell hollowed but instead
exude the smell of unkept comfort rooms. We must sanitize our
toilets and improve the ventilation system of our washrooms and
lavatories. We need to feel responsible for the upkeep of our
workplace and love it with at least half, if not equal, care we give
our own homes where our own families live.
Court of Appeals should reflect the purpose and character of the
Judiciary. This institution should, therefore, evoke dignity,
public respect, inspiration, and a morale boost for those of us
working here so that we can effectively render the public service our
bottom line of course is that a more presentable and comfortable
workplace does not come easily nor cheaply. THIS IS OUR CHANCE
THEN TO ASSERT OUR IDENTITY AS MEMBERS OF THE COURT OF APPEALS TO
REALLY LIVE AND WORK AS ONE BIG FAMILY AND TRULY MAKE THIS OUR SECOND
proactive approach is needed. We only have to demand from the
Legislative Branch of government the fair and just funding our
buildings deserve. It is high time we push for allocation of
funds for major renovations and the provision of court facilities.
Let us discuss this in our meetings. Let us swamp Congress with
requests during budget hearings. As Justices of this Court we
do enjoy personal rights and privileges. It is but just and
fitting that we also think of the rest of our judicial community and
the premises they occupy. I entreat my honorable colleagues in
the Judiciary to please aim for this ideal of community building.
Let us stand behind our PJ Choy Vasquez and with him, let us push in
the same direction.
age of 72 might be twilight in the natural life of a man. But
for a judiciary institution such as the Court of Appeals of the
Republic of the Philippines, it is just the beginning! Let us
move forward with our sights in the coming years ahead in this 21st
Century –serving God and our fellowmen.