5 new trial courts to rise in Sarangani

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/1 March) – For almost two decades now, Sarangani, a province straddling seven towns with an estimated population of nearly half a million people (2007 census), has only one trial court to boost.

But the wheels of justice will soon grind faster for Sarangani, which was carved out of South Cotabato province in 1992, with five new courts in the pipeline, two of them ready for groundbreaking rites on Wednesday (March 2).

Arnel Zapatos, Sarangani provincial legal officer, said that Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona would lead the groundbreaking ceremonies at the capitol compound in Alabel town.

Zapatos said the creation of the five new regional trial courts in Sarangani stemmed from the enactment of Republic Act 10123, which former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo approved on June 3, 2010.

Sarangani is under the 11th Judicial Region.

Zapatos said they are considering putting up three of the five additional trial courts in Glan, Malungon and Kiamba.

The Kiamba branch would serve the MAKIMA economic sub-grouping, he added. MAKIMA stands for Maasim, Kiamba and Maitum.

“(With) accessibility and speedy determination of cases before the court, justice is served. That is its impact. All these efforts are support towards the strengthening and sustaining peace and order in the province,” Zapatos said in a statement.

“It will be a progressive implementation just like what we want to happen in the province to achieve the Justice Enhancement and Empowerment Program (JEEP) objectives by 2012,” he said.

Senator Francis Pangilinan had put up a P3-million support fund for the P8-million project.

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 of the province,” a project briefer said.

Corona will also lead the conduct of small claims workshop among barangay captains and women sectors with orientation and dialogue on the following day.

“According to a study by the Supreme Court, small claim cases (lower than P100,000) clog the dockets in regional and municipal trial courts. To unclog the dockets, new rules and procedures in small claims direct municipal trial courts to mediate those cases,” Zapatos said.

A dialogue and validation workshop with court administrator Jose Midas Marquez will also be held at the Kasfala Hall for court infrastructures on Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) judicial region.

Zapatos said the Provincial Legal Office’s milestones for the JEEP are the institutionalization of the Provincial Mediation Center in 2007, implementation of the Justice On Wheels (JOWs) mobile court in 2008, and the creation and establishment of additional trial courts in the province through RA 10123.

Since its operation in 2008, JOWs has decreased the number of inmates at the provincial jail by 64 percent, from 600 to 216, in December 2010, records from the provincial legal office said.

Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez said the five new trial courts, which are expected to become fully operationalize by next year, will boost the justice system in the province.

Justice will now be closer to our people, he said. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)