Judge decries injustice in Bukidnon’s lack of RTCs

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/15 Feb) – The refusal of the government to open new court salas in Bukidnon makes for “many injustices,” a Regional Trial Court judge claimed.

Judge Benjamin Estrada, presiding judge of RTC 10 Branch 9 presiding, decried the clogging of the four salas of the RTC in Bukidnon when he spoke to members of the Bukidnon Press Club Monday as the inducting officer of the group’s new set of officers.

Estrada lamented that while RTC judges in neighboring Cagayan de Oro City only have 200 case load, Bukidnon’s courts have close to 1,200.

The judge described his sala’s calendar as attending to at least 25 cases every day. He said this means by 10 a.m. they are just through with the reading of the cases scheduled for hearing on that day.

In reality, he said, they can just hear 3 of the 25 cases and in each case they can only listen to only one witness.

He urged the media to dig more and look for evidence if the officials have really asked for more courts to be opened in the province.

In a separate interview, provincial legal consultant Albert Lagamon said that this situation is lamentable.

He said justice delayed is justice denied.

In October 2010, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ Bukidnon chapter has renewed calls for more branches of the regional trial courts in the province to help reduce the load of incumbent judges and to ensure cases are attended to.

Apollo Maguale, a member of the chapter’s board of directors, said then the IBP issued the statement after it endorsed a resolution calling for “immediate solution” to the lack of courts.

Maguale said Bukidnon lawyers who attended the 2nd Mindanao Convention of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in Cagayan de Oro used the forum to call for the immediate resolution of the problem of lack of RTCs in Bukidnon.

In April 2009, during the local presentation of the Philippine Mediation Center, Justice Jose Perez, the Supreme Court administrator, told judges and justice stakeholders here that they have already forwarded a proposal to the House of Representatives for the creation of five new RTCs in Bukidnon. He said the creation of new RTCs needs a law to be enacted by Congress.

Bukidnon’s judges and clerks of court wrote the Supreme Court in January 2009 for the creation of at least two new RTCs and two new Municipal Trial Courts (MTCs) to reduce the number of cases being handled by these courts, according to Renee Gloria M. Ariño, RTC Branch 10 clerk of court.

But the SC thumbed down the request for two new MTCs “for there is no need for it,” Ariño said at that time.

She said they are yet to formalize their request to members of the House of Representatives for the passage of the required law.

RTC 10 executive judge Josefina Bacal was reportedly handling at least 819 cases as of February 2009. Another judge had a load of 780 cases. Bacal said earlier other judges were handling at least a thousand cases.

The “average and manageable” load, Ariño said, is 300 cases (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)