Judges, arbiters, and commissioners should work from home
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - August 11, 2020 - 12:00am

In a time of crisis like these, the peoples' sufferings are further exacerbated by justice that is not only delayed but also denied. The administration of justice is still expensive, dilatory and, in many cases, corrupt.

Cases still take years to resolve. Litigants still wait for many months, even years to have a resolution of their disputes. Simple cases of illegal dismissals and money claims still take many years to resolve. Justice in this country is not just very expensive, it is too inefficient. In the name of due process, too many dilatory tactics are being concocted by some unethical lawyers who are seemingly tolerated by judges and arbiters, who might happen to be fraternity brothers, distant relatives, or business partners. My informers from the courts and the NLRC told me that cases are being discussed and fixed over lunch in private rooms even during the pandemic.

Big law firms are reportedly sabotaging the government's efforts to improve the administration of justice. They seem to earn more if cases are not decided speedily. I have no evidence of this but I am bringing this to the palace so that the PACC can look into this alleged shenanigan. If there is no corruption, the Ombudsman and the heads of the agencies as well as the court administrators should look at the many delayed cases where, for many years, simple cases just lay there and they die there, as the song goes. Judges, arbiters, and commissioners should work from home and at least decide one case every day; that means 30 resolved cases, at the very least, each month. When I was an arbiter in 1978, I imposed upon myself that strict work ethic.

To the credit of Chairman Gerry Nograles, who is a very honest public official, the rates of disposition in the NLRC have exponentially improved under his watch. But alone and far away in the head office, he might not be aware of the bad eggs in the regions. There are arbiters who accept too many teaching loads and they have backlogs of undecided cases. These arbiters are paid equal to RTC judges. Commissioners are paid equal to Court of Appeals justices. They should work harder, in consonance with the principle they know very well, the doctrine of equal pay for equal work. They have all the logistics and the personnel to support them. They have no alibi for ineptitude.

Delays are always oppressive to the workers. The employers can afford delays. But many of them are also seeing gradually that the longer the case takes, the bigger are the bills submitted by big law firms. If the court administrators and heads of agencies cannot catch their own subordinates making money, they should at least catch them sleeping on their jobs. The people deserve better service. They are paying too much for such a lousy service.

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