Pandemic exacerbates backlog of court cases

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    COURT dockets have been suffering from a high rate of backlog of cases even before the official declaration of a COVID-19 pandemic last March. But with the long ECQ, the revert to virtual or online judicial processes such as inquest and the occasional infection outbreaks right in several court salas, the case backlog rate further deteriorated.

    Last year, the SC was saddled with 8,852 pending cases, the Court of Appeals 19,732 cases, Sandiganbayan 5,237 cases, Court of Tax Appeals 1,353 cases, second-level courts 546,182 cases, and first-level courts 160,153 cases.

    No wonder Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta had to give assurance that the judiciary will come up with various initiatives that would address the problem of backlog of cases. Even before the pandemic, he has introduced revisions and draft of revisions of the Rules of Court — all intended to make the resolution of cases faster.

    ‘The good Chief Justice must be praised for his efforts at making the wheels of justice move faster, but these initiatives are being sabotaged by certain litigants and their lawyers…’

    Among these initiatives is the strict monitoring of the issuance of TROs and inhibition of judges, and strict implementation of rules governing reglementary period in resolving motions and pending incidents.

    The good Chief Justice must be praised for his efforts at making the wheels of justice move faster, but these initiatives are being sabotaged by certain litigants and their lawyers, short of being contemptuous of the High Tribunal.

    A case in point is the long journey of Felix Chua, a businessman from Lucena City, who has been trying to recover his property from a joint venture that went sour with Gotesco Properties, a business transaction that started in March, 1997 that also involved the United Coconut Planters Bank.  The High Court’s Special Third Division led by then Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin ordered the UCPB to return to the Chua couple “the equivalent of 49.44 percent of the total area of the 30 parcels of land involved in the transactions, estimated at P200 million” which was in excess of the amount of the loan originally secured by the Chuas.

    On Aug. 16, 2017, the Tribunal ruled that there was fraud when the bank assigned the obligations of Jose Go, a partner of the Chuas, involving the Lucena Grand Terminal, without their consent.

    What followed is a series of never-ending petitions and motions for reconsideration from lawyers of UCPB and SPV-AMC, such as Ludivino Geron, Ismael Andres Isip, Hortensio Domingo.

    This case is just one of the scores of cases that the Supreme Court has been trying to unclog in its dockets, thus the Chief Justice is correct in instituting various reforms to speed up the administration of justice and the disposition of cases.