MANILA, Philippines – Two years after the rule became effective, Philippine courts are 30.53% compliant with the continuous trial rule that mandates trial proper to last for only 6 months or 180 days.
This latest data as of June 30, 2019, was provided by the Supreme Court to the House committee on appropriations when it defended its P38.71-billion budget for 2020 on Wednesday, August 28.
According to the same data, before the rules on continuous trial, only 2.13% of criminal cases on average completed trial in 180 days. The 30% compliance is an impressive improvement.
The revised rules on continuous trial became effective in 2017. It requires that arraignment and pre-trial be done within 10 days for detainees, and within 30 days for non-detainees. Trial proper should last only for 180 days, while the judgment should be promulgated within 90 days of terminating the trial.
The compliance rate is the average for all lower courts. Family courts were the best performing, with 63.70% compliance with the 180-day trial period. Metropolitan trial courts were the worst performers, with a compliance rate of only 22.19%.
The same data showed that for cases filed after continuous trial became effective, 64.3% were resolved within 100 days or below. But for cases which were filed before the continuous trial rules, only 2.7% were resolved within 100 days.
This spells more adjustments for the judiciary as a whole, as it endeavors to provide faster and more efficient administration of justice to Filipinos.
However, unfilled vacancies remain a problem. As of August 27, there were still 742 vacancies for judge positions across courts nationwide. There were 11,833 unfilled positions for lower court personnel as of June 30.
The deluge of drug cases under the Duterte administration has forced the judiciary to make adjustments. The Supreme Court has had to assign more drug courts to cater to drug cases which have overtaken the country's courts since 2017.
Because of continuous trial, 40% of the drug cases which were filed after the continuous trial rules took effect were resolved within 75 days. But for the drug cases filed before continuous trial, none or 0% were resolved within 75 days.
At least 23% of drug cases filed after the effectivity of continuous trial still lagged in the docket, or for 100 to 200 days.
For drug cases which were filed before continuous trial but which proceeded during its effectivity, most were still resolved beyond 500 days, indicating difficulty in catching up with procedures.
As seen in the chart, there's not much difference in the length of time it takes to resolve drug cases decided before continuous trial, and drug cases filed before continuous trial but which proceeded during its effectivity.
As of December 31, 2018, first-level courts (municipal and metropolitan courts) had 160,153 pending cases, while second-level courts (regional trial courts) had 546,182 pending cases.
The judiciary wanted P55.66 billion for 2020, but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) approved only P38.71 billion.
Instead of interpellating judiciary officials on their budget, lawmakers during Wednesday's budget hearing asked the DBM why it slashed almost P17 billion from the original request. They were told that recurring expenses were removed.
The budget hearing lasted for less than 30 minutes only, with Misamis Occidental 2nd District Representative Henry Oaminal saying the swift approval is a "courtesy" to the justices.
Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, a chief justice applicant, attended the budget hearing with Associate Justice Alexander Gesmundo and Court Administrator Midas Marquez.
Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez backed possible increases in the budget when it reaches plenary debates.
For now, the House committee has approved the judiciary's P38.71-billion budget.
Talking to reporters after the hearing, Supreme Court Spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka said the budget also aims to augment security assistance to judges and justices. – Rappler.com