GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/3 March) – Sarangani Rep. Emmanuel Pacquiao has committed some P3 million to help fund the establishment of the additional five Regional Trial Court (RTC) branches in the province within this year.
Pacquiao said the allocation will augment the funding commitments raised by the provincial government of Sarangani for the construction of two additional RTC buildings at the provincial capitol compound in Alabel town and the new RTC complexes in the municipalities of Glan, Malungon and Kiamba.
“This is just an initial funding. We’ll lobby for additional financial support to make sure that the project will be completed as scheduled,” he said at the formal launching of the project at the Sarangani provincial capitol Wednesday.
Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Renato Corona personally graced the project’s launching and later led the simple groundbreaking rites for the two additional RTC buildings at the capitol compound.
Corona credited Sarangani officials for pursuing the establishment of five additional RTC branches in the province, saying it will further boost the ongoing reforms initiated by the High Court.
The establishment of the five additional RTC branches in Sarangani was based on Republic Act (RA) 10123 that was enacted in June last year.
It was supported by the SC’s Justice Enhancement and Empowerment Program (JEEP), which was launched in the province 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.”
The initiative paved the way for the opening of the province’s Justice on Wheels or mobile court in 2008.
“The opening of these new court branches will essentially speed up the delivery of justice in the province. It will no longer be Justice on Wheels but Justice on Jet,” said Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez.
The governor said they expect the five new RTC salas to become fully operational by January 2012.
He said Sen. Francis Pangilinan initially allocated P3 million for the implementation of the project, which was estimated to cost some P8 million.
The SC also approved the opening of at least 65 plantilla positions for the five additional RTC salas, he said.
The governor cited that aside from the funding commitments from Pacquiao and Pangilinan, the municipal governments of Glan, Malungon and Kiamba have agreed to provide for the needed lots or office spaces for the new RTC salas in their areas.
Dominguez said the provincial government still needs to raise at least P5 million to ensure the completion of the project.
Lawyer Arnel Zapatos, Sarangani legal officer, said the opening of the five additional RTC branches will help ease the operations of the province’s lone RTC Branch 38, which lists over 2,000 cases under its docket.
He said that with the operationalization of the new courts, the province’s court system may eventually adopt the standard 500 cases for each court sala. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)