2 Bukidnon judges leaving; no replacements in sight

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/18 March) – Two of Bukidnon’s four Regional Trial Court judges are retiring in April and June, and the vacancies – in addition to the lack of prosecutors – will only worsen the sorry state of the province’s justice system in particular the delayed resolution of cases, RTC Branch 10 executive judge Josefina Gentiles-Bacal told MindaNews Wednesday.

RTC Branch 9 presiding judge Benjamin Estrada will retire next month while RTC Branch 8 presiding judge Pelagio Estopia has already requested to be assigned in Caloocan City.

Two provincial prosecutors have been promoted as judges in Gingoog City, Bacal added.

She appealed to President Aquino and lawmakers from Bukidnon to help solve the problem by opening more court salas in the province.

But Bacal said that while 2nd District Rep. Florencio T. Flores Jr., was interested to help he told her the possibility [of opening more salas] was remote owing to budgetary limits.

She recalled having asked legislators for additional RTCs the past years backed by other stakeholders like the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

In April 2009, during the local presentation of the Philippine Mediation Center, Supreme Court Administrator Justice Jose Perez said that they had already forwarded a proposal to the House of Representatives for the creation of five new RTCs in Bukidnon.

The creation of new RTCs needs a law enacted by Congress.

Bukidnon judges and clerks of court wrote the SC in January 2009 for the creation of at least two new RTCs and two new Municipal Trial Courts (MTCs), according to RTC Branch 10 clerk of court Renee Gloria M. Ariño then.

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

Bacal has asked SC deputy administrator for Mindanao Raul Villanueva to assign Cagayan de Oro RTC Branch 20 judge Bonifacio Macabaya as acting presiding judge of RTC Branch 9 when Judge Estrada retires.

She also asked that Cagayan de Oro RTC Branch 18 judge Dennis Alcantar be her assisting judge because she will take over RTC Branch 8 when Judge Estopia leaves.

Bacal further requested that former provincial prosecutor Mirabeaus Undalok, recently promoted as judge in Gingoog City, be assigned as assisting judge of RTC Branch 8.

But she clarified that if the SC grants her requests, Macabaya, Alcantar and Undalok will only attend to their duties here one week every month.

RTC branches 8, 9 and 10, all based in Malaybalay City, are currently handling between 2,600 and 2,700 active cases.

Bacal said that with this number criminal cases take an average of five years to resolve and civil cases, especially land disputes, 15 to 20 years. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)