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Visioning for the Court of Appeals

Visioning for the Court of Appeals
by Presiding Justice RUBEN T. REYES

THE bedrock of every institution is its cherished values. The deeper these values are infused into its spirit, the stronger the foundations that arise from its roots. Such values may be gleaned from the credo, maxim, motto, slogan, manifested guiding principles or guideposts of an institution.

Justitia Per Legem – Justice Through Law – is the traditional creed of the Court of Appeals. It is so declared in our official emblem. But, like any other motto, it is couched in general terms. It is like a body framework that needs fleshing out or a goal that calls for definite directions.

The Court of Appeals Hymn echoes the proclamation that justice is for all, that with courage and zeal, the Court fulfills its judicial call, that with sound equity, it dispenses justice swift and real, that the law will prevail in this steadfast citadel.

To be sure these lines represent the principles that have made the Court one of the stalwart institutions in our democracy. But people crave for a more concrete statement. They want a more specific formula. They prefer a credible demonstration how the ends of justice can be realistically achieved.

This has impelled the new leadership of the Court to adopt a Vision Statement as a guiding light and platform for action and reform – “A Court of Appeals that is righteous and reasonable in its decisions and resolutions, responsible and responsive to the challenge of judicial service.”

The Vision Statement not only embodies the lasting qualities that stand for the Court. It sets forth the aspirations that the leadership has set upon itself to accomplish. Visions, it may be said, risk disparagement from some quarters. They may be dismissed by the censorious as simple sloganeering; skeptics may also doubt its successful implementation. But words here espoused are not mere empty vessels of platitudes. They articulate the Court’s long-held values and closely-guarded ideals.

To be righteous is never easy. Applied to courts, righteousness requires the administration of justice by an even hand and a balanced mind. The Court’s decisions are never intended to please everyone. As a decision-making body, it is called upon to decide controversies in favor of one party against another. Lives or property may be placed at risk, fortunes reversed and destinies altered.

Yet, every litigant pleading his cause before the Court may rest in the assurance that righteousness has and will always govern its conduct. Justice according to law and equity can hardly be attained unless the honest desire to wield it reign in the hearts and minds of those sitting in court. Verily, the Court is peopled by magistrates not only trained in the law but also steeped in faith, fairness and a fear of God. The wicked and prejudiced never have a place in its august halls.

The righteousness of the Court is measured by the reasonableness of its adjudications. Its actions governed by law and logic, the Court cannot act otherwise, except along the lines drawn by legislation and stare decisis. So must its decisions, too, display the same attributes.

An observer once mused that the legal system is often a mystery; everyday citizens are baffled by the rituals undertaken by lawyers and judges. On this point, the Court has always seen to it to state the legal and factual bases of its decisions and resolutions. Mandated by our Constitution, this duty is essential to bridging the gap between the Court and the people. Verdicts should be demystified, their raison d'etre unfurled for understanding.

But beyond expressing these values, the adopted Vision Statement is a guide to progressive action and response. Ours is a Court that has always honored responsibility. A responsible institution is not a perfect institution, shorn of pitfalls or shortcomings. It is practical and realistic, honestly acknowledging its imperfections and striving for their immediate rectification.

Far from being myopic, the Court acknowledges its tremendous responsibility of resolving pending cases that are either for decision or completion. As of December 31, 2005, there are 11,319 cases pending decision and 11,202 pending completion or a total of 22,521. Of those pending decision, only 49 are vintage 1999 or older. The good news is for the year 2005, the Court has disposed of 9,975 by decision and 4,085 by resolution. Below are the pertinent data and statistics:

I. Number of cases filed:

Year 2001 11,749 Cases
Year 2002 12,672 Cases
Year 2003 11,745 Cases
Year 2004 12,370 Cases
Year 2005 13,483 Cases
Total 62,019 Cases
Average per year 12,404 cases
Average per month 1,034 cases

II. Disposed of cases:


By Decision By Res./Dis. Total
Year 2001 7,068 4,506 11,574
Year 2002 7,568 4,184 11,752
Year 2003 7,474 4,255 11,729
Year 2004 7,961 3,914 11,875
Year 2005 9,975 4,085 14,060

Total

40,046 20,944 60,990
Average per year: 8,009 4,189 12,198
Average per month: 667 349 1,016

III. Pending cases as of December 31, 2005:

Pending Decision 11,319 50.3%
Pending Completion 11,202 49.7%
Total 22,521 100%

IV. Received Cases Year 2005

I. Luzon 9,321 69%
II. Visayas 2,572 19%
III. Mindanao 1,590 12%
Total 13,483 100%

V. Status of zero backlog project (1999 and earlier) as of January 02, 2006:

Decided cases 414 89%
Pending cases 49 11%
Total 463 100%

The Court has demonstrated its capacity now to decide in one year as many cases as are submitted for decision. Properly equipped and motivated, it can carry on and even accomplish more.

The leadership is thus enthusiastic in launching forthwith a two-pronged, doable Zero Backlog Project: First, to decide by next month the 49 cases left of the previous zero backlog project (1999 and older). Second, to decide the balance of 11,319 within this year. Hopefully by next year, the Court will be current or up-to-date in its case management and disposition.

The Court is also poised to respond to clarion calls for judicial reform spearheaded by the Supreme Court. Reform does not mean abandonment of tradition. Instead, it is bringing accumulated and improved experience and practice of tradition in its everyday exercise. It is never a search for a new system in place of the one existing; it is a willing recognition that new ways must be sought to enhance the existing system for the greater good.

The Court cannot do any less than to be uncompromisingly responsive to the demands of the times. If we are to preserve the faith of the people in our courts, we must strive for the betterment of the means of administering justice. To this end, the Court of Appeals pledges its unwavering commitment.




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