GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/1 February) — The provincial government of Sarangani is targeting to achieve the fastest rate in the dispensation of justice among Mindanao’s 26 provinces with the looming opening of two more Regional Trial Court (RTC) branches in the area.
Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez said they expect the province’s new court branches to become fully operational within the first half of the year as set by the Supreme Court’s (SC) Office of the Court Administrator.
He said the new RTC salas, which were designated as branches 47 and 48, were part of the five new trial courts allotted to the province as provided under Republic Act 10123 that was enacted in June 2010.
The provincial government spent around P2.4 million for the construction of the new court building and the provision of the necessary amenities and furnishings for the two court salas through a funding support from the national government.
The new courts were built just beside the old Hall of Justice building, which houses the province’s lone RTC Branch 38, located inside the provincial capitol compound in Alabel town.
The new RTC building was formally turned over by the local government to the SC last Wednesday in a simple ceremony graced by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez.
Sereno accepted from Gov. Dominguez the deed of donation for the RTC building, which was completed after a year of construction.
Marquez told reporters that the SC has not yet appointed the judges and personnel for the two new courts as it is still waiting for an endorsement from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
The official said they are specifically waiting for the DBM to fund the organization of the new RTC branches.
“Once the DBM gives its go-signal, we will (immediately) organize the new courts,” he said.
With the completion of the two new courts, Dominguez said plans are underway for the construction of three other court buildings in the municipalities of Glan, Malungon and Kiamba.
He said they are working to enhance the province’s mobile court system, which is part of the SC’s Justice on Wheels (JOWS) program.
“The dispensation of justice is not only the work of the Supreme Court. It is our responsibility to also ensure that the system will work down to the grassroots level,” the governor said.
The implementation of the JOWS program and the construction of the additional court salas were part of the local government’s Justice Enhancement and Empowerment Program (JEEP), which received the Galing Pook award in 2011.
JEEP was initiated in 2007 “in order to help support the provincial initiatives in promoting social justice by focusing its interventions to the provincial jail and to the lone regional trial court of the province,” a project briefer said.
Through the JEEP’s interventions, Sarangani has so far posted a 96 percent case efficiency resolution for the barangay justice system.
Citing a report from the Sarangani legal office, Dominguez said in a statement that from around 3,600 pending cases at the RTC Branch 38 in 2004, its number has dwindled to just 705 as of this month.
He said the de-clogging of the court cases helped free up space at the Sarangani provincial jail, which was earlier forced to accommodate 600 to 700 prisoners despite being built for just 300 inmates. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)