MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/ 24 September)— The Senate recently approved on third and final reading the creation of four additional regional trial courts (RTCs) in Bukidnon, according to a legislative update posted on the Senate website.
The Senate secretariat announced the approval of Senate Bill 3026 or the Act creating four additional branches within the RTC-10 judicial region. If enacted into law and implemented, it will bring the number of RTCs in Bukidnon from four to eight.
The bill was one of 17 measures approved seeking the creation of 69 new RTCs, a Municipal Trial Court (MTC) and a Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) in the country.
According to the bill, the four new courts in Bukidnon will be stationed in Malaybalay City.
The bill further amends Batas Pambansa 129 or the Judiciary Reorganization of 1980 and appropriating funds for the purpose.
The bill further stated that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, in coordination with the Secretary of the Department of Justice “shall immediately include in the court’s program” the implementation of the additional courts.
Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan said the creation of new courts is long overdue but added that it is a boost to fast track the delivery of justice.
Board member Nemesio Beltran, Sangguniang Panlalawigan majority floor leader, lamented the delay of the legislation, which came after more than a decade of lobbying starting in the late 1990s.
“Ironically, it is often said that justice delayed is justice denied. But in this case … justice finally [has] been served,” he added.
“Better late than never. The creation will surely hasten the resolution of cases, and will decongest our courts,” said board member Roland Deticio, a lawyer and the president of the Philippine Councilors’ League in Bukidnon.
Ronelo Alvarez, provincial director of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, cited that the lack of courts denied citizens of speedy resolution of cases.
Lawyer Isidro Caracol, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Bukidnon chapter, also welcomed the news.
“But it will take some time to implement the number of courts. We will wait and see,” he added.
But Estrella Villarin, head of the Alliance of Urban and Rural Women in Bukidnon, said that more judges, not courts, are needed in the province.
“The province also lacked lawyers at the PAO (Public Attorney’s Office),” she added.
Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. said the four courts may mean four additional judges, not necessarily the opening of new salas, noting that Bukidnon’s existing four RTCs have no permanent judges.
Lawyer Renee Gloria M. Ariño, RTC-10 clerk of court, confirmed receiving reports from Judge Josefina Bacal about the Senate approval but admitted receiving no formal communication yet.
The bench in Bukidnon has lamented the lack of new courts in the province, with Bacal, a former RTC-10 executive judge, describing it in March 2011 as a “sorry state of the province’s justice system, in particular the delayed resolution of cases.”
Bacal appealed last year to President Aquino and lawmakers from Bukidnon to help solve the problem by opening more courts in the province.
Back then, Second District Rep. Florencio T. Flores Jr. told Bacal that 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, then 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 Congressional approval.
Bukidnon judges and clerks of court wrote the SC in January 2009 for the creation of at least two new RTCs and two new 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.”
Back in March 2011, RTC branches 8, 9 and 10, all based in Malaybalay City, were 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)