Today is Sunday, September 23, 2018

The JRD - In Focus

By Ms. Mani F. Gella

There is no ordinary day at the JRD (Judicial Records Division). Be it at the Archives Section, Civil Cases Section, Criminal Cases Section, Receiving Section, Special Cases Section or even at the JRD Proper. This 119-strong Division also includes the JRS-CA Cebu and JRS-CA Cagayan de Oro City, which are headed by employees formerly from JRD Manila. (Incidentally, the Chief of JRS-CA Cebu has compulsorily retired recently.) As one of the nerve centers of the Court of Appeals (CA) the JRD's multifarious work is closely related to the adjudicative function of the CA. That it is constantly energized happens to be the order of the day. Always expecting the unexpected, that is how life is at the JRD.

The JRD Proper, where the Chief and Assistant Chief hold office and from where emanates the over-all supervision of the Division's operations, is composed of personnel mostly on detail from other offices and who can be recalled anytime as the need arises. This being so, manpower shortage is therefore addressed by multi-tasking and personnel shifting.

The Receiving Section, with the indefatigable Ms. Jane Sabido ably at its helm, is the entry point of cases appealed to the CA. Filers who come from the four corners of Luzon, can brighten up or sour up an employee's day depending on the filer's mood. With this in mind, the staff is therefore cautioned to practice restraint and maximum tolerance (whoever said these only apply to riot policemen?) as they go about their daily work. They are constantly reminded that as civil servants, they should comport themselves with courtesy and proper decorum. Or else, they could be the subjects of a complaint brought before the media by an “unhappy” filer. Surely, nobody needs this kind of media exposure. The Receiving staff is also forever at the receiving (no pun intended) end of sporadic outbursts from traffic-weary, irate and hungry filers. At times, they have to pacify filers who fight over the most trivial things like, who was first in line. Being caught in the middle of verbal tussles like this that could escalate into a boxing match is not far-fetched. Hazards of the job? Paging the CA Health and Welfare Plan! Seriously, aside from servicing 51 Justices and 17 Division Clerks of Court, this Section has to entertain also lawyers, litigants, inquiries and requests on an average of 250 per day. The volume of pleadings that is received on a daily basis is nothing below 500.

Then there are the Civil, Criminal and Special Cases Sections. All pleadings, motions, compliances and other papers that are received daily at the Receiving Section, whether personally filed or by mail, are immediately forwarded for processing to these three Sections headed by their affable Chiefs, namely; Ms. Myrna D. Almira of the Civil, Ms. Medella A. Carrera of the Criminal and Ms. Teresa P. Gajo of the Special. The gargantuan task of supervising the day-to-day operations of their Sections coupled with listening to the employees' personal problems that get in the way of their work is no laughing matter for this softhearted trio. That is why job know-how alone is not sufficient qualification for the kind of work that they do. Mega doses of human understanding and compassion are prerequisites for even just a modicum of success in this endeavor.

A misplaced pleading, delayed reporting or an erroneously numbered Petition is sure-fire stimuli for one’s blood pressure to shoot up. Problematic employees who must be monitored closely into coming to office on time to performing their job well are enough to add wrinkles and crow’s feet to one's otherwise youthful face. These are just some of the realities that these ever-patient ladies have to contend with day-in and day-out.

The Civil Cases Section is only second in volume to the Special Cases Section, as far as appealed cases are concerned. However, it covers a wider range because there are more suits filed that are civil in nature. And these cases go through two phases of processing before they are deemed ready for decision. The security of the voluminous records of these cases requires a safe storage area. This is one of the reasons why the JRD is perennially in need of bigger bodegas. The time constraints imposed on the reporting of pleadings/motions place the rollo clerks in a highly stressful situation. Fortunately for them, these embattled clerks have age on their side or else they would all be trooping every Wednesday to the CA Medical Clinic for periodic monitoring of their cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

The Criminal Cases Section must prioritize its cases as well especially where detained prisoners are involved. Heinous crime cases, (which were transferred of late to the CA’s jurisdiction) as the name implies, do not make the job in this Section any easier or lighter. Aside from the documentary evidence that is submitted, the original records of these cases require careful and delicate handling given their sensitive nature. Thus, the records keeper has to be perpetually vigilant otherwise he is in peril of being charged with infidelity in the custody of these records.

The Special Cases Section handles the bulk of cases filed in the CA especially now that the NLRC (National Labor Relations Commission) cases are also transferred to the CA’s authority not to mention the new Writs that were recently implemented by the Supreme Court. The urgency alone of these cases that seek temporary relief makes the Section’s personnel extremely vulnerable to sanctions, reprimands and warnings from the officials concerned. To accommodate those who are unable to file during regular office hours, this Section, together with the Receiving Section and the Cash Division, extends its tour of duty from 4:30 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. every day aside from its no noon-break schedule.

Mr. Renato (Boy) M. Sister, the soft-spoken and competent Chief of the Archives Section, has this “horror” story to tell. His Section, which oversees the remanding of the records of an appealed case after its finality, has more exposure to the public at large. And as such, it bears the brunt of verbal abuse and insults from losing and disgruntled litigants and sometimes from stressed out lawyers. Although one might say these come with the territory, still, the territory must also have some borders, some limits. To be called “palamunin ng gobyerno” is certainly going beyond those limits. Human as they are, they are not therefore inured to getting hurt when subjected to this kind of indignity. What is even worse, complained one Section Chief, is when they are ordered around by fellow employees who sometimes become overzealous as they demand immediate attention/service. Still and all, the Archives people are well advised to take these things in stride.

The JRD can be likened to a well-oiled machinery. But when a screw comes loose, the production line slows down. Although recently, this had been partly remedied already by breaking down the Sections into Units to streamline the work processes and to train its people for more responsibilities. In any event, the JRD tries its best to discharge its duties with utmost dedication, dispatch, honesty and accuracy given all the limitations that it is faced with. As a matter of fact, one of the many visions of Mr. Fernando C. Prieto (the top honcho of the JRD, Mr. Action Man himself) for the JRD is to infuse it with young blood in the hope that with their energy, drive, enthusiasm and dynamism, the JRD will surge to greater heights as the show-window of the CA. This optimism is shared by many even as the JRD is perceived by some to give the CA a bad name due to some nefarious activities being practiced allegedly by some of its unscrupulous personnel.

To the majority of the JRD workforce, this is an unfair and inaccurate perception because they maintain that there are also decent, honest and hard working employees at the JRD who know what being a public servant is all about, who work beyond the call of duty and who go that extra mile for public service. In fact, the recently concluded JRD workshop-team building activity held last May 29 and 31, 2008 attested to this. By espousing the theme – THE JRD IN THE 21st CENTURY – A TRAILBLAZER IN THE JUDICIOUS RESTRUCTURING OF THE SPEEDY DELIVERY OF PUBLIC SERVICE, the JRD proved that it was definitely proceeding in the right direction. Not only that. Some eminent CA Justices led by no less than Presiding Justice Conrado M. Vasquez, Jr., Mr. Justice Martin S. Villarama, Jr., Mr. Justice Andres B. Reyes, Jr. and Mr. Justice Normandie B. Pizarro together with the Clerk of Court, Atty. Teresita Rigonan-Marigomen, gave their all-important support to the JRD's pioneering efforts in this regard by generously sharing not only their valuable time but most significantly their expertise on selected topics that they expounded on at the Workshop Proper. And this workshop was only one of the many projects that the JRD has lined up in order to streamline procedures, evaluate employee performance and improve the delivery of public service.

Thus, aside from being informative, this overview of the JRD is also intended to, hopefully, generate more understanding of its unintentional lapses, more forbearance of its occasional inadvertence and more humane treatment of its personnel as it relentlessly pursues the ideals of public service.

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