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Fast fix for slow pace justice: Cebu City judges to help unclog case dockets in Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu

By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol January 08,2015 - 10:19 AM



Midas Marquez

Midas Marquez

The  slow disposal of court cases  in Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu cities has left dockets full with more than a thousand pending cases in each trial court.

Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez who arrived yesterday in Cebu announced a temporary setup ordered by the Supreme Court to speed up the work.

He said at least six judges from the Cebu City regional trial courts (RTC) will be tapped to handle the   cases  in all  three courts in Mandaue and  three others in Lapu-Lapu City.

The Supreme Court has yet to identify the six Cebu City RTC judges.

“Every court in Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu has more than a thousand pending cases.  On the other hand, here in Cebu City, there are courts which have only 300 to 400 pending cases.  So we’ll ask the judges of these courts to assist Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu RTCs,” said Marquez.

One consequence: congested jails, with inmates awaiting court hearings.

“Kasi sa Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue, kulang na kulang ang courts. (Because in Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue, they really lack trial courts),” Marquez told reporters yesterday.

Records at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology show that the Mandaue City Jail is the most congested detention facility in Cebu.  It was built to accomodate  65 inmates but houses  1,020 inmates.

In Lapu-Lapu city, the 160-capacity  jail presently houses 1,262 inmates.

Marquez said the Supreme Court has also decided to automate the trial courts in Lapu-Lapu City by introducing the electronic court (e-court) system which was first adopted by the Quezon City RTC.

The  e-court system  aims to reduce  case processing time, eliminate sources of graft, and improve public access to  case information.

Marquez  yesterday met Lapu-Lapu city RTC judges to discuss the High Court’s plans.


No funds, no courts

In February 2013, President Aquino signed into law Republic Act 10363 creating seven new trial courts in Mandaue City.

A few months after, he signed Republic Act 10578 creating seven more trial courts in Lapu-Lapu City.

But none of the courts have been set up yet for various reasons.

“New courts ought to be created in Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue. But they have not yet been funded. That is why we cannot organize them yet,” Marquez said.

“We have yet to appoint new judges and hire court personnel for these courts. Also, the place where the new courts shall be constructed has yet to be identified,” he said.

In the meantime,  Marquez said the High Court needs to address the clogged case dockets and jail congestion.

“We are hoping that beginning February 1, all newly filed civil cases in Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue, after their raffle, will be heard and tried here in Cebu City. In that way, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu won’t become a dumping ground of cases,” he said.


Shortage of judges

Another problem is the shortage of RTC judges in Cebu City, from where the Supreme Court hopes to get backup support for neighboring courts in Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu.

Four Cebu City judges retired last December.

Marquez said the High Court has to immediately fill the vacancies.

With the exit of Judges Simeon Dumdum Jr., Silvestre Maamo, Enriquita Belarmino, and Eric Menchavez who chose  optional retirement, seven out of  22 RTC branches in Cebu City are left without a presiding judge.

In an interview, Dumdum said the vacancies will obviously cause delays in the dispensation of justice.

“I hope the Supreme Court will immediately fill up the vacancies and appoint our successors,” Dumdum said.

Other courts which don’t have permanent judges are RTC branches 5, 13 and 24.

Branches 13 and 24 were left vacant following the retirement of  Judge  Meinrado Paredes in March 2014 and  Judge  Olegario Sarmiento in September 2012.

Branch 5 has been vacant since the  death of  Judge  Douglas Marigomen in February 2013.

The High Court designated acting judges to temporarily act on cases filed before these three courts.

Executive Judge Soliver Peras of the Cebu City RTC yesterday said it would be better to include vacant courtrooms that are handled by acting judges in the raffling of newly filed cases.

“For the moment, those handled by acting judges are excluded in the raffling of cases. I think, that has to be changed,” he said.

With the retirement of Judges Belarmino and Menchavez—both assigned to handle drug cases, Peras said there are only two  regular drugs courts in Cebu City that are included in the raffling of new cases.

The two other vacant drugs court are exempted in the raffle.


Related Stories:

4 Cebu City judges to retire at yearend

More judges, courts needed to ease problem


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TAGS: Cebu, Judges, Justice, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City

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