ANTI-POOR SUPREME COURT: PHILIPPINE SETTING

The Constitution mandates that the Supreme Court shall promulgate rules and regulations that foster inexpensive litigation and the rendition of justice is conveniently made available to all. Thus, it shall

(p)romulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, the admission to the practice of law, the Integrated Bar, and legal assistance to the underprivileged. Such rules shall provide a simplified and inexpensive procedure for the speedy disposition of cases, shall be uniform for all courts of the same grade, and shall not diminish, increase, modify substantive rights. Rules of procedure of special courts and quasi-judicial bodies shall remain effective unless disapproved by the Supreme Court. {Art. VII, Section 5, 1987 Constitution, emphasis ours}

This constitutional rule is in recognition of the age-old precept that the stability of the state depends on its capacity to dispense justice to its people. Not only that, under the Bill of Rights of the same Charter, “free access” to the courts or quasi-judicial tribunals is explicitly provided. Father Joaquin G. Bernas, SJ, a noted constitutionalist, believes that “free access” is a fundamental right. He advances the opinion that Courts should not make any distinctions whether the right to go to court is provided by the rights to equal protection and due process. The right to free access is specifically given to the individual:

The significance of having an explicit “free access” provisions in the Constitution may be gathered from the rocky road which “free access” seems to be travelling in American jurisprudence. The American constitution does not have an explicit free access provision and, hence, its free access doctrine has been developed as implicit both from the equal protection clause and the due process clause. Griffin v. Illinois [351 U.S. 12 (1956)] reprobated the denial of effective review to an indigent prisoner through the exaction of fees as violative of equal protection and, on due process grounds, Boddie v. Conneticut [401 U.S. 371 (1971)] that a state may not deny indigents access to divorce courts because of their inability to pay filing fees. Recently, however, United States v. Kras [409 U.S. 434 (1973)] held, by a 5-4 vote, upheld, against both equal protection and due process argument, the requirement of a $50 filing fee as a precondition to a discharge in bankruptcy. The Court’s reading of Griffin and Boddie saw in them two requirements for the success of a free access plea: first, the interest sought to be protected must be “fundamental” [Id. at 444-45] and, second, it must be objectively impossible to protect the interest except in a court of law [Id. at 443-44]. With the presence of an explicit and broadly worded provision in the Philippine Constitution, Philippine jurisprudence is barred from making the distinctions made in American jurisprudence [The 1973 Constitution: Notes and Cases (1974 ed.) p.787].

In recent years however, the Supreme Court has decreed various revisions of the Rules of Court that tend to tilt the scale of justice against the poor. The Great Plebeian Ramon Magsaysay immortalized the line “those who have less in life should have more in law”. Some writers actually attribute the quote to Magsaysay’s Executive Secretary, the late Fred Ruiz Castro, who ironically rose to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

RA 9227: A Law Shot With Multiple Subjects

For starters, by August 16, 2004 all imaginable judicial docket fees are increased made much more beyond the reach of a typical Mang Pandoy. With the advent of REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9227, or AN ACT GRANTING ADDITIONAL COMPENSATION IN THE FORM OF SPECIAL ALLOWANCES FOR JUSTICES, JUDGES AND ALL OTHER POSITIONS IN THE JUDICIARY WITH THE EQUIVALENT RANK OF JUSTICES OF THE COURT OF APPEALS AND JUDGES OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSE, law practice was never the same again. Many lawyers have expressed disappointment when the said law was passed as it pinched on where it matters most: their pockets. One RTC Clerk of Court has observed that the number of cases filed in her court have gone down due to the filing fee increases. Another lawyer expressed the frustration that clients now are far between, shopping for legal advice and canvassing for lawyer’s acceptance fees, never to return again. Chief Justice Davide, aware of the current woes of lawyers, came out with the idea of “retail law practice”. RA 9227 states in part:

Section 1. Declaration of Policy. – It is hereby declared a policy of the State of adopt measures to guarantee the independence of the Judiciary as mandated by the Constitution and public policy, and to ensure impartial administration of justice, as well as an effective and efficient system worthy of public trust and confidence.

Sec. 2. Grant of Special Allowances. – All justices, judges and all other positions in the Judiciary with the equivalent rank of justices of the Court of Appeals of the Regional Trial Court as authorized under existing laws shall be granted special allowances equivalent to one hundred percent (100%) of the basic monthly salary specified for their respective salary grades under Republic Act No. 6758, as amended, otherwise known as the Salary Standardization Law, to be implemented for a period of four (4) years. The grant of special allowances shall be implemented uniformly in such sums or amounts equivalent to twenty-five percent (25%) of the basic salaries of the positions covered hereof. Subsequent implementation shall be in such sums and amounts and up to the extent only that can be supported by the funding source specified in Section 3 hereof.

Sec. 3. Funding Source. – The amount necessary to implement the additional compensation in the form of special allowances granted under this Act shall be sourced from, and charged against, the legal fees originally prescribed, imposed and collected under Rule 141 of the Rules of Court prior to the promulgation of the amendments under Presidential Decree No. 1949, dated July 18, 1984, and from the increases in current fees and new fees which pay be imposed by the Supreme Court of the Philippines after the effectivity of this Act. In the event that the said amounts are insufficient to cover the grant of allowances on the last year of implementation of this Act, the National Government shall subsidize the special allowance granted for justices, judges and all other positions in the Judiciary with the equivalent rank of justices of the Court of Appeals and judges of the Regional Trial Court as authorized under existing laws in an amount not exceeding One hundred sixty-five million pesos (Php 165,000,000.00) per annum. If the collections from any increase in current fees and any new fees imposed after the effectivity of this Act exceed the amount needed to fund the special allowances granted to justices, judges and all other positions in the Judiciary with the equivalent rank of justices of the Court of Appeals and judges of the Regional Trial Court as authorized under existing laws, the surplus may be used by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to grant additional allowances exclusively to other court personnel not covered by the benefits granted under this Act.

This law allows the Supreme Court adjustments of the salaries of all Justices and Judges under its wing and where a surplus exists, to other court personnel. At the same time, the Supreme Court is expressly given the go signal to increase its current fees. Its implementation is in itself its interpretation. The Supreme Court even rebuked the Commission on Audit when the latter inquired on the manner the former disbursed its funds sourced thru this law. The High Court says spending its monies is purely its own business. It created a statutory exception on the power of COA to scrutinize public funds.

Contrary to its avowed purpose, this law is anti-poor. This runs counter to the “free access” clause of the Constitution. Why should the quest for justice be made a private matter? In effect it now becomes the duty of the people to pay the judiciary to do its job. Next time we will pay the PNP to run after the criminals and the AFP, to sic the insurgents. How can there be impartial administration of justice when only the rich and the powerful could go to court?

A client called this writer up one time when he received a notice from the municipal engineer advising him to tear down his concrete fence and steel gate as these structures allegedly encroached a public street. He was given a deadline to do so otherwise the said local official shall proceed accordingly at the expense of the property owner. The condemnation was done without any public hearing and in clear violation of his right to due process. I told him apply for an Injunction before the courts. When he found out that the filing fee is almost P5, 000.00 over and above the lawyer’s fee, he backed out and initiated himself the demolition of his fence with a heavy heart. He later asked me, “wala bang mura-murang justicia?”

There was this complainant in a Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court who simply threw in the towel and begged the judge to dismiss the case she filed against a burglar. When she was asked why, she simply said she was getting tired of going back to court and she had no more time to attend to the protracted process as her absence to her job costs more than her prosecuting her case. She told the judge that she was early in court at around 8:30 am. The judge appeared at 9:30 am. The cases in the calendar are unbelievably 55 in all. Once a case was called it took the court seven to ten minutes to dispose of it. How in heaven’s name can the court be expected to wind up at 12 noon when 55 times 7 minutes is more than six hours? “Pakawalan na po ninyo yang akusado,” she pleaded the court.

A poor country like us can no longer dispense justice to its people. Instead of looking for solutions on the heavy docket, Congress and the Supreme Court saw a business opportunity.

Going to court like the Municipal Trial Court is an ordeal to an ordinary wage earner. Elevating a case to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court is made much more difficult where the poor party litigant has to shell out as basic filing fee the amount of P3, 000.00 or an increase of 200% from the previous one of P1, 000.00 whereas his minimum take home pay is pegged to P290.00 daily and stuck at that rate till kingdom come. The lawyer’s fee is not yet inputted under the new rate. The Rules say that the Supreme Court shall provide inexpensive and simplified procedure. Inexpensive means “reasonable in price: CHEAP.” (Webster’s Dictionary).

Faced with the prospect of an expense with such magnitude against the other pressing daily given visceral cost of living like food, medicine, tuition, and transportation money how do you prioritize your cerebral need for justice?

Shall we forget about justice? Is it only for the rich and the influential? With unresolved conflicts as fodder to brewing unrest, history tells us that somewhere sometime something has to give. Revolutions are a natural valve in a boiling society.

Justice dispensation is a nation’s business, a key to a progressive and free society. Jose W. Diokno has formulated his “jobs and justice; food and freedom” as the answer to a lasting and egalitarian society. Without food, jobs and justice, three vital components in his vision, forget about an open social order.

Second, the Supreme Court issued various circulars in rapid succession adding more requirements in the filing of appeals and petitions for special civil actions before it and the Court of Appeals. As the Rules now stand any petition filed before it “shall be accompanied by a certified true copy of the judgment, order or resolution subject thereof, copies of all pleadings and documents relevant and pertinent thereto, and a sworn certification of non-forum shopping as provided in the third paragraph of section 3, Rule 46”{Sections 1-2, Rule 65}

The poor litigant from Allacapan, Cagayan or Tawi-tawi has to submit certified true copies of the decisions of any tribunal like the Court of Appeals in Manila subject of his petition, for instance. The poor appellants (the case losers and want to appeal)-workers have to sign the petition’s verification individually that it is being prepared with their personal knowledge and at their instance. There is another page for certification for non-forum shopping saying that there are no other cases pending before the Municipal Trial Court of Basco, Batanes and failure to so state has dire consequences like outright case dismissal and administrative sanctions to the parties or their lawyers.

The plaintiff or principal party shall certify under oath in the complaint or other initiatory pleading asserting a claim for relief, or in a sworn certification annexed thereto and simultaneously filed therewith: (a) that he has not theretofore commenced any action or filed any claim involving the same issues in any court, tribunal or quasi-judicial agency and, to the best of his knowledge, no such other action or claim is pending therein; (b) if there is such other pending action or claim, a complete statement of the present status thereof; and (c) if he should thereafter learn that the same or similar action or claim has been filed or is pending, he shall report that fact within five (5) days therefrom to the court wherein his aforesaid complaint or initiatory pleading has been filed.

Failure to comply with the foregoing requirements shall not be curable by mere amendment of the complaint or other initiatory pleading but shall be cause for the dismissal of the case without prejudice, unless otherwise provided, upon motion and after hearing. The submission of a false certification or non-compliance with any of the undertakings therein shall constitute indirect contempt of court, without prejudice to the corresponding administrative and criminal actions. If the acts of the party or his counsel clearly constitute willful and deliberate forum shopping, the same shall be ground for summary dismissal with prejudice and shall constitute direct contempt, as well as a cause for administrative sanctions. (n) (Section 5, Rule 7)

What if the other petitioning workers are out in the field eking out his daily sustenance and only a couple of them managed to talk to their crusading lawyer? Spouses must sign both or their petitions get dismissed. What if one spouse is an overseas contract worker unregistered with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration? Is not the lawyer’s oath as handling counsel enough to take care of these menial undertakings? Anyway the lawyer is an officer of the court with awesome responsibilities often recounted by the Supreme Court in cases of lawyer-castigation. Besides, there is jurisprudence to the effect that the lawyer’s folly binds the client.

While the failure of petitioners to appear at the hearing is not so much due to their fault, but more to the lack of necessary diligence on the part of their counsel which resulted in their prejudice, the counsel’s negligence is binding upon the clients. A client is bound by the action of his counsel in the conduct of a case and cannot be heard to complain that the result might have been different had counsel proceeded differently. His lawyer’s mistake binds him. If the lawyer’s mistake and negligence were to be admitted as reasons for reopening cases, there would never be an end to a suit so long as new counsel could be employed who could allege and show that prior counsel had not been sufficiently diligent or experienced. or learned. 3 The matter of affording relief from failure of party or his counsel to appear at the trial is largely discretionary with the judge, and his action may not be interfered with unless abuse is patent on the record. 4 Petitioners failed to make out a case of excusable negligence for non-appearance of their counsel at the October 16, 1966 hearing. (CABALES and TORRES, petitioners, vs. NERY and THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, respondents, G.R. No. L-31987 November 21, 1979 emphasis ours)

Why pass this responsibility on to the lowly litigant who only wanted some attention from the bench? He is not in the league of San Miguel Corporation’s Danding Cojuangco or FM’s Imelda Marcos or the Billion-worth Estate of Ilusurio or The Guy Family that Owns 3D. Lacking any of these earth-shaking requirements, the petition gets pinked. Pink is the color of the paper where the disposition of dismissal is written managed in one paragraph.

Third, the Court has fixed the limitation in the filing of petitions for writs of certiorari and other special civil actions like Mandamus, Prohibition, Injunction, etc.

The petition may be filed not later than sixty (60) days from notice of the judgment, order or resolution sought to be assailed in the Supreme Court or, if it relates to the acts or omissions of a lower court or of a corporation, board, officer or person, in the Regional Trial Court exercising jurisdiction over the territorial area as defined by the Supreme Court. It may also be filed in the Court of Appeals whether or not the same is in aid of its appellate jurisdiction or in the Sandiganbayan if it is in aid of its jurisdiction. If it involves the acts or omissions of a quasi-judicial agency, and unless otherwise provided by law or these Rules, the petition shall be filed in and cognizable only by the Court of Appeals. (4a) {Sec. 4, Rule 65, 1997 Rules of Court, emphasis ours}

Before, a party intending to initiate a petition for certiorari has “a reasonable period” within which to file it. Invariably, in reliance to the Court’s previous rulings, “reasonable period” has been understood to mean a maximum of six months or a little longer depending on the merits of case. Under the 1964 Rules of Court the Supreme Court “uniformly ruled that while the Rules of Court does not fix a time-frame for the filing of a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, existing jurisprudence requires that the same be filed within a reasonable period of time from receipt of the questioned judgment or order”. {Tupas vs. Court of Appeals, 193 SCRA 597 [1991]; Allied Leasing & Finance Corp. vs. Court of Appeals, 197 SCRA 71 [1991]; People vs. Court of Appeals, 199 SCRA 539 [1991]; Torres vs. NLRC, 200 SCRA 424 [1991]}. The former Rule is more obliging to the poor than the new Rule reducing the period to only two months, considering their incidental cluelessness or inherent ignorance in dealing with their legal fix. Six months is a comfortable lead time. The current two months is oppressive. A poor man’s priority is food on the table and with this pressing preoccupation, their being a victim of an illegal act is relegated to the background. Or until they completely forget about it. And once remembered, they bring the incident for consultation to the Public Attorney’s Office only to be rebuffed that the cause of action has turned stale. As we said in the article “Why They Signed”:

Add to that the new provisions in the Rules of Court fixing a timetable for filing a petition for certiorari (review of abusive or void decisions of lower courts or government agencies like the Department of Agrarian Reform, Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources, Labor Dept., etc) within sixty days (in some agencies the appeal period is ten days). Invariably, the poor litigant would have to look for food in the meantime before going to some PAO lawyer who is in a foul mood himself due to some personal financial constraint. Kaya pagdating kay attorney magagalit pa at sasabihin, “Paso na ito, bakit ngayon lang kayo nagpunta dito?”(log on to http://www.sonnypulgar.com/ articles, “Why They Signed”)

Fourth, in the determination of damages, the judicial discretion and the existing jurisprudence is basically anti-poor.

In granting the amount of moral damages, assuming a poor fellow deserves it in the first place, one criterion in its determination is the social standing of the aggrieved party. The Supreme Court has fixed the criteria in the award of moral damages in this jurisdiction “by adequately considering the official, political, social, and financial standing of the offended parties on one hand, and the business and financial position of the offender on the other” (Domingding v. Ng, 55 O.G. 10 cited in the case of Fernando Lopez et al vs. Pan American World Airways, G.R. No. L-22415, March 30, 1966)

The Supreme Court is telling us that the sense of revulsion by the rich and the poor are worlds apart. The rich are generously compensated, while the poor are entitled to P10, 000.00 for the sleepless night, anxiety, and wounded feeling he suffered not only on the complained of unpleasant incident but during the last ten years waging his lonely legal battle all the way to the Supreme Court. The threshold of pain for the poor is much higher than his wealthy counterpart.

How much is the human life worth in this jurisdiction? Hold your breath. P50, 000.00! “The indemnity for death caused by a quasi-delict (and crime) used to be pegged at P3, 000.00, based on Article 2206 of the Civil Code. However, the amount has been gradually increased through the years because of the declining value of our currency. At present, prevailing jurisprudence fixes the amount at P50, 000.00” (Pestano, et al vs. Spouses Sumayang G.R. No. 139875, December 4, 2000). Ten times cheaper than the motor vehicle that claimed it. Since the deceased is a lowly worker, his actual restitution for life expectancy is a measly token amount. His case is totally different from the hotshot who gets bumped off by a racist, discriminatory international airline.

Fifth, is the new 2004 Circular in the conduct of pre-trial conferences. The poor are invariably the victim of a violent crime. The poor fellow goes to court to seek some redress. Of course when an aggrieved party of a criminal act goes to court his recourse is two-pronged: the punishment of the guilty and making whole the victim’s loss. In the new Circular however the trial courts thru their Clerks of Court are mandated to convince the parties to settle the civil aspect.

In other words, forget about the vital function of the courts in meting out penalties on the convicted felon and his concomitant confinement to a penitentiary protective of society as a whole. Do you think once the offended heirs of the victims are paid would they still pursue the case? The criminal will not pay unless the criminal charge is dropped.

The lower courts are made to believe now that civil restitution is more important than sequestering a criminal away from us and in the process abate litigations. Is this the new policy of the Supreme Court? Conversely, would the rich agree in the settlement of the civil damages arising from a crime committed against them? Not on your life. Placing more importance in the reduction of court load than dispensation of speedy and equal justice is appalling. What the Supreme Court wants is a golfing judiciary, apparently.

Sixth, the poor litigant has to state the material dates when he received the shocking news that he lost before the inferior court. Has not the Supreme Court embarked on electronic networking or information technology? This information can be accessed as an added service to the poor litigant instead of ensnaring him into a trap of non-compliance with that requisite.

Seventh, the petition for review filed before the Court of Appeals under Rule 42 Section 2 must accompany relevant pleadings and other data:

Form and contents— The petition shall be filed in seven (7) legible copies, with the original copy intended for the court being indicated as such by the petitioner, and shall (a) state the full names of the parties to the case, without impleading the lower courts or judges thereof either as petitioners or respondents; (b) indicate the specific material dates showing that it was filed on time; (c) set forth concisely a statement of the matters involved, the issues raised, the specification of errors of fact or law, or both, allegedly committed by the Regional Trial Court, and the reasons or arguments relied upon for the allowance of the appeal; (d) be accompanied by clearly legible duplicate originals or true copies of the judgments or final orders of both lower courts, certified correct by the clerk of court of the Regional Trial Court, the requisite number of plain copies thereof and of the pleadings and other material portions of the record as would support the allegations of the petition. (Section 3, supra)

In the absence of any of those requisites, the poor man’s petition faces rejection. This is an extra cost to the poor litigant as the Supreme Court located in Manila requires at least 18 copies of the pleading (under Rule 65) and 7 copies for the Court of Appeals (under Rule 42). Why can’t the whole records be sent to the Supreme Court instead? Has not it heard of courier service? Or why can’t an exception be crafted applicable only to pauper litigants? But then the Supreme Court says that is ideal but it boils down to logistics. It adds, we have no money to do what the poor litigant wants. With this rationalization, all the more it becomes anti-poor.

Eighth, recent clarificatory rulings further bolster the impression that the present Supreme Court is anti-poor. One’s petition gets trashed where it is lacking any of the following requirements:

1. The verification and certification of non-forum shopping was not signed by all of the petitioners (Loquias vs. Office of the Ombudsman, G.R. No. 139395, August 15, 2000);
2. There is no written explanation why personal service of copies of the petition upon respondents was not resorted to (Sec. 11, Rule 13, 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure; Solar Team Entertainment, Inc. vs. Hon. Helen Bautista-Ricafort, et. al., 293 SCRA 661)

3. Petitioner’s counsel failed to indicate his Attorney’s Roll number (SC resolution dtd. Nov. 12, 2002 in Bar Matter No. 1132).

Especially in labor cases, the first imposition calls for all the petitioners to sign their pleading. But the problem is most of these poor litigants are out in the field as we said eking out a living. Such that the poor and busy lawyer once doubled-up by his opposing counsel in the follow-up department has to promptly appeal the lost cause within the usual reglamentary period of 10-calendar days.

But the Supreme Court in an apparent second thought modified the Loquias ruling in the case of Fiel et. al. -vs.- Kris Security System, Inc. (G.R. No. 155875), where it ruled that:

The greater interest of justice would be served if the petition for certiorari filed by petitioners before the Court of Appeals is adjudicated on its merits with respect to the three petitioners who have signed the verification and certification on non-forum shopping, namely, Agapito C. Piel, Avelino Q. Reyes and Roy C. Bonbon, than to make them all pay for the failure of their co-petitioner Diomedes Uray to observe his own compliance with the rules. The three petitioners who have faithfully observed the rules mandated in Section 5, Rule 7, of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, by signing the requisite verification and certification on non-forum shopping, should not be unduly prejudiced by the fault of their co-petitioner who apparently has lost interest in pursuing his case.

Once again, we must stress that the technical rules of procedure should be used to promote, not frustrate, the cause of justice. While the swift unclogging of court dockets is a laudable aim, the just resolution of cases on their merits, however, cannot be sacrificed merely in order to achieve that objective.4 Rules of procedure are tools designed not to thwart but to facilitate the attainment of justice; thus, their strict and rigid application may, for good and deserving reasons, have to give way to, and be subordinated by, the need to aptly dispense substantial justice in the normal course.

Apparently, the High Court has already abandoned its policy of liberality on the side of labor per its pronouncement in the case of VIR-JEN SHIPPING AND MARINE SERVICES, INC., petitioner, vs NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION (G.R. No. L-58011-12 July 20, 1982) where it ruled in this wise:

After mature and careful deliberation, We have arrived at the conclusion that the shortened period of ten (10) days fixed by Article 223 contemplates calendar days and not working days. We are persuaded to this conclusion, if only because We believe that it is precisely in the interest of labor that the law has commanded that labor cases be promptly, if not peremptorily, dispose of. Long periods for any acts to be done by the contending parties can be taken advantage of more by management than by labor. Most labor claims are decided in their favor and management is generally the appellant. Delay, in most instances, gives the employers more opportunity not only to prepare even ingenious defenses, what with well-paid talented lawyers they can afford, but even to wear out the efforts and meager resources of the workers, to the point that not infrequently the latter either give up or compromise for less than what is due them (emphasis ours).

The framers of the Constitution for once never envisaged that the Supreme Court as a revenue agency. It is a pillar of strength without an army or purse. Its funding is the problem of the President and Congress.

Remember Atty. Joe Pidal? In the Senate investigation, he bragged that he was a practititioner when his wife was then the Vice President. He handled a case involving the Toh family against Solid Bank for the recovery of P15M before the Supreme Court and won it handily by reversing the decision of the Court of Appeals (SPOUSES VICKY TAN TOH and LUIS TOH, vs.SOLID BANK CORPORATION, FIRST BUSINESS PAPER CORPORATION, KENNETH NG LI and MA. VICTORIA NG LI, G.R. No. 154183, August 7, 2003).

If you were a poor foreshoreland occupant in Sitio Seawall, Bgy. Camohaguin, Gumaca, Quezon, can you duplicate that feat? Not on your life. The poor fisherman’s case didn’t see the light of day as it was thrown out like some leper’s rag at the high court’s doorway. Kung mahirap ka kaya mo bang magpa-reverse? This is the reality of want for justice in far-flung areas that the Supreme Court is unbelievably clueless.

While it blazes some precedents like allowing minor petitioners to maintain a civil action for the protection of their

“right (and all those they represent) to a balanced and healthful ecology is as clear as the DENR’s duty — under its mandate and by virtue of its powers and functions under E.O. No. 192 and the Administrative Code of 1987 — to protect and advance the said right,” (JUAN ANTONIO, et. al vs. THE HONORABLE FULGENCIO S. FACTORAN, JR., in his capacity as the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and THE HONORABLE ERIBERTO U. ROSARIO, Presiding Judge of the RTC, Makati, Branch 66, respondents. G.R. No. 101083 July 30, 1993),

and

A denial or violation of that right by the other who has the correlative duty or obligation to respect or protect the same gives rise to a cause of action. Petitioners maintain that the granting of the TLAs, which they claim was done with grave abuse of discretion, violated their right to a balanced and healthful ecology; hence, the full protection thereof requires that no further TLAs should be renewed or granted (ibid),

the Supreme Court is merely engaged in lip service. If the Court could recommend legislative measures to Congress for enactment or repeal, and other pressing realities that it encounters in the disposition of controversies that need immediate disposition outside of its province like the grant of reprieve or pardon, a purely executive function, we see no reason why it could not reiterate its activist position, as what it had taken in the Oposa Doctrine, by sending strong recommendation for the revocation of Timber License Agreements. After 12 years, the petitioners in that case were vindicated as shown by the devastation of the provinces of Aurora and Quezon. Were those TLAs recalled, the damage and death wrought on Aurora and Quezon would have been minimized.

There is a pervading feeling that the Supreme Court is not serious in the performance of its duty. It gives the impression that it is just too overwhelmed by the magnitude of its docket that appears hopelessly indisposable, hence, the magic of rule making.

If its objective is to approximate the prerogative of the US Federal Supreme Court, forget it. The latter can choose the cases it wants to resolve and only on constitutional issues at that, given the sheer number of cases elevated to it from all over its jurisdiction. The US geography and demography are the telling distinctions. Whereas, our Supreme Court whether or not the controversy is constitutionally mind-boggling or involves questions of law or fact, is duty bound and must go the extra mile under the Constitution to at least glance over the cases elevated to it. It should avoid its present practice of peremptory rejection on the basis of missing particulars as we itemized here, certainly not the fault of Mang Pandoy. Its present practice of disposition by mere minute resolution violates the constitutional mandate on how a decision has to be written. The people are entitled to the erudition of the wise men on the ivory bench.

THE DOJ JOINED THE FRAY

Not to be outdone, the Department of Justice, acting ostensibly on Republic Act 9279 or An Act Granting Additional Compensation in the Form of Special Allowances for Members of the National Prosecution Service and State Counsels of the Department of Justice and for Other Purposes issued DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR NO. 42 that states fully:

NATIONAL PROSECUTION SERVICE
SCHEDULE OF LEGAL FEES*

A. CRIMINAL COMPLAINTS – FEES
1. ESTAFA/VIOLATION OF TRUST RECEIPT LAW BUSINESS SCAM/FINANCIAL FRAUD
Amount of Damage: Up to P50,000.00 P150.00 Over 50,000.00 200.00 Over 100,000.00 300.00 Over 150,000.00 400.00 Over 200,000.00 500.00 Over 250,000.00 600.00 Over 300,000.00 700.00 Over 350,000.00 800.00 Over 400,000.00 900.00 Over 500,000.00 1,000.00 Additional P10.00 for every P1,000.00
2. LIBEL 1,000.00
3. RECKLESS IMPRUDENCE 200.00
4. ORAL DEFAMATION 200.00
5. MALICIOUS MISCHIEF/ALL OTHER CASES WITH DAMAGES 200.00
6. QUALIFIED THEFT 200.00
7. CARNAPPING 500.00 for trucks, cars & motorcycles; 1,000.00 for buses
8. VIOLATION OF BP 22 50% of fees for estafa; if filed w/estafa, no charge
9. VIOLATION OF R.A. 7832 (Electric Pilferage) 2,000.00
10. VIOLATION OF SSS/PAG-IBIG LAWS 5% of collectible amount
11. ILLEGAL RECRUITMENT 100.00
12. VIOLATION OF R.A. 8041 (Water Pilferage) 1,000.00
13. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW 5,000.00
14. VIOLATION OF SUBDIVISION/CONDOMINIUM LAW 300.00
15. VIOLATION OF P.D. 1083 (code of Muslim Personal Laws) 500.00
B. APPEAL/PETITIONS FOR REVIEW
1. TO THE REGIONAL STATE PROSECUTORS 500.00
2. MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION OF THE RESOLUTION OF REGIONAL STATE PROSECUTORS 300.00
3. TO THE CHIEF STATE PROSECUTOR/SECRETARY 1,000.00
4. MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION OF THE RESOLUTION OF THE CHIEF STATE PROSECUTOR/SECRETARY 500.00
C. MOTION/PLEADINGS ETC. FOR CONSIDERATION OR COMMENT OF PROSECUTORS
1. MOTION TO REDUCE BAIL 100.00
2. MOTION FOR RELEASE OF MOTOR VEHICLES 200.00
3. AFFIDAVIT OF DESISTANCE 500.00 (Prosecutor’s Office); 500.00 (RTC); 300.00 (MTC)
4. MOTION FOR POSTPONEMENT IN PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION 100.00
5. MOTION FOR RLEASE OF CASH BOND 100.00
6. MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATON OF RESOLUTION IN PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION 500.00
7. MOTION FOR REINVESTIGATION 500.00
8. MOTION FOR INHIBITION OF PROSECUTOR 200.00
D. CLEARANCE ISSUED FOR:
1. LOCAL EMPLOYMENT 50.00
2. FOREIGN EMPLOYMENT 100.00
3. FOREIGN TRAVEL 200.00
4. FIREARM LICENSE 1,000.00
5. PERMIT TO CARRY FIREARMS 500.00
6. BUSINES PERMIT 300.00
7. RETIREMENT/RESIGNATION 100.00
E. OTHER SERVICES
1. MEDIATION/CONCILIATION 500.00
2. SPECIAL PROCEEDINGS REQUIRING APPEARANCE OF PROSECUTORS 500.00
3. ADMINISTRATION OF OATH 50.00
4. CERTIFICATION RE STATUS OF CASES, TRUE COPY OF DOCUMENTS, EXHIBIT, ETC. 30.00+2.00/page in excess of 3 pages

*Indigent litigants, the Republic of the Philippines, its agencies and instrumentalities other than government-owned and -controlled corporations, are exempted from the payment of legal fees.

ARE WE THAT MASOCHISTS?: THE LABOR DEPARTMENT WANTS PART OF THE ACTION

•    As per En Banc Resolution No. 01-05, Series of 2005, the following legal fees payable to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) are:
1. Certificate of Pending/No Pending Cases    Php 300.00
2. Transcript of Stenographic Notes    10.00/page
3. Certified Machine Copies    10.00/page
4. Filing fee for Petition for Injunction/TRO    3,000.00
5. Filing fee for Petition for Relief from Judgment    3,000.00
6. Injunction Expense Fund (refundable)    5,000.00 minimum
7. Deposit fee under BP 325
a.    1st P2,000.00
b.    2,001.00 to 18,000.00
c.    Over P18,000.00
a.    20.00
b.    90.00
c.    (x.5%)
8. Filing fee for Motion to Quash (re:Writ of Execution)    500.00
9. Filing fee for Motion to Recompute Award    500.00
10. Filing fee for Third Party Claim/Complaint    5,000.00
11. Execution Fee: (to be charge pro-rat
a.    For awards less than P5,000.00
b.    P5,000 or more but less than P20,000.00
c.    P20,000 or more but less than P50,000.00
d.    P50,000 or more but less than P100,000.00
e.    P100,000 or more but less than P150,000.00
f.    P150,000 or more
a.    200.00
b.    400.00
c.    600.00
d.    800.00
e.    1,000.00
f.    1,000.00 plus 10.00 for every 1,000.00 in excess of 150,000.00
12. Appeal Fee    150.00
13. Legal Research fee (UP Law Center)    20.00

The Supreme Court, the DOJ and the DOLE have a ready excuse. They were merely implementing the laws enacted by Congress. Come to think of it, what prompted Congress to pass these controversial legislations? The dispensation of justice now is virtually privatized. The litigants are the ones subsidizing or practically financing the proceedings. By paying a substantial sum a party sets in motion arbitration proceedings. There are hidden costs still. How about the costs of transcripts of stenographic notes and the commissioner’s fees in ex parte proceedings? Are they assured, by the way, of swift delivery of justice?

But we should rest on the consolation that while 60 million of our people are poor and have no luxury of enjoying a Van Gogh, we have an institution called the Supreme Court: dispenser of justice, champion of the poor. Or is it?

Sonny E. Pulgar
sonnypulgar.com
[email protected]
Sentro Ng Gabay Legal Sa Quezon
Sitio Paang Bundok, Bgy. 5,
Calauag, Quezon

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