‘HELP RESTORE CREDIBILITY’
Chief justice urges lawyers to support reforms
Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno yesterday asked lawyers to support reforms to speed up up the delivery of justice, live up to their profession and not to use delays to earn more from clients.
“Our people should start to view lawyers in a more affirmative light, not as gainseekers or mercenaries who encourage delay,” she said during the national convention of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) attended by 2,000 laywers in Cebu City.
Sereno discussed various reforms being done to speed up the disposal of cases and unclog court dockets, especially using information technology, such as “E-Court”or the electronic court system piloted in Quezon City.
“It is the duty of the bar to suport reform efforts. I am not tired of repeating the message,” she said.
“We are in the direction of restoring the credibility of the judiciary. Side by side with that, we want to see the public appreciate the honest, competent lawyers who will bring about the realization of true justice,”she said.
Sereno said she was aware of strategies used by some lawyers to delay court proceedings, and in the process earn more appearance fees or other payments from their clients.
She lamented how people joke about lawyers who prolong their services to get more from clients.
“That will not be your model anymore. The model for earning should arise from the intelligent application of your time, aided by technology,” said Sereno.
“Judges have been given instructions not to brook delays. In other words, we are giving them much latitude to discipline lawyers who use delay as strategy,” she said.
Among the reforms the Supreme Court has started are the electronic filing and raffling of cases, making available electornic transcripts of hearings, SMS text notice for court schedules and hearings, public information kiosks for updates of cases, an alarm system for judges, and electronic service of processes and subpoenas.
For example, an automated hearing feature would allow a lawyer to get a printed copy of a judge’s verbal order within 15 minutes after it is issued in open court.
Sereno said the High Court also plans to implement the online application for the bar exams starting next year.
She encouraged the IBP to set up its own website and put online a database of lawyers and their public profiles.
“The world is changing fast and we cannot waste time and other resources when technology can actually do the trick for us,” said the 54-year-old magistrate in a nearly hour-long speech at the 15th national laywers convention at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino.
“We have been confronted with several problems for decades, problems that we did nothing about. But now, we are serious in trying to make our people feel justice real time; to make them really believe that there is hope for fairness and truth in this world.”
Filing of cases, payment and sending subpoenas to parties can eventually be done online.
A paperless court, she said, is also a small way for the judiciary to help the environment.
Sereno encouraged lawyers to revisit their roles and do the roles expected of them.
“The Integrataed Bar of the Philippines must, with absolutely no equivocation or reservation, take concrete steps to demonstrate its mission to renew its covenant of service to the people,” she said.
Sereno said lawyers “need to be involved (in community service). You can provide appropriate legal service for sectors who most need the advice of competent counsel,” she said.
“We belong to a profession known for values, intellectual substance, the constant capacity to take a principled stand. I look forward to a future where lawyers can hold their heads up high and no longer become the subject of sorry jokes about malpractice,” she said.
“I hope time will come people will not only talk about how good their doctors and teachers are, or how inspiring their priests are. I hope, we will hear stories of how lawyers have malasakit, tiyaga, pag-aaruga, katalinuhan, and integridad in relating to their clients. That is a future which is possible,” she added.
Present during the lawyers’ convention organized by the IBP were Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Antonio Carpio, IBP national president Vicente Hoyas with lawyers, and prosecutors from different parts of the country. Aside from Sereno, the other speakers during the event were Vice President Jejomar Binay and former Senator Panfilo Lacson.
The three-day lawyers’ convention will end tomorrow.
Sereno said the judiciary is doing its best to end corruption in the judiciary by penalizing erring judges and lawyers.
“The High Court is very serious in its resolve to eliminate corruption in the bench and bar. That is why when there is a disciplinary action, it is made to emphasize that we have standards of ethics which we need to constantly uphold,” she said.
She said the electronic raffling of cases will help remobe human intervention and ensure greater transparency to avoid talk of “proviosnal remedies for sale.”
Sereno vowed to continue lobbying Congress to increase the salaries of judiciary workers.
“I’ll push for an increase in salaries that will allow judges to have a dignified lifestyly and will prevent court employees from being tempted from making money out of papers they are handling,” she said.
Sereno, who assumed as chief justice in 2012, said she has to fight for the well-being of judges so “they can send their children to children to good colleges, and enable them to live a healthy lifestyle.”
“When you see these menu of reforms and hear the success stories, you will be convinced to support the Supreme Court at this very crucial time when it is fighting for its institutional strengthening. And therefore, I ask you to be with me in this journey to bring the judiciary to anothehr level,” said Sereno has until 2030 to serve as chief justice.
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