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Wheels of justice continue to grind despite COVID-19 — SC

Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta on Friday said “the wheels of justice continue grinding despite the COVID-19 pandemic” with 825 cases resolved by the Supreme Court (SC) since the lockdowns started in March.

In the trial courts, Peralta said that there have been 67,481 hearings through video conferencing on criminal cases involving 45,336 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs).

The hearings, either in-court or video conferencing, resulted in the release of 60,532 PDLs as of August 21, the Chief Justice said.

“This is a most-welcome development considering that our jails are congested and that stricter measures are being implemented especially with the present health crisis,” Peralta added.

“This is also proof that the Judiciary never wavered even during the almost six-month government lockdown in dispensing its constitutional duty to adjudicate cases,” he said.

A check with the SC’s public information office (PIO) showed that based on the records provided by the Office of the Clerk of Court En Banc, there were 821 new cases filed before the High Court from March 16, 2020 to August 7, 2020.

With 821 new cases, pending cases in the SC rose to 9,492 as of August 7.

But Peralta said the resolution of 825 cases by the SC as of August 7 “provided a clearance rate of a little more than 100 per cent.”

SC records showed that among the resolved cases were the petitions questioning the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 11469, the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the petition seeking to compel President Duterte to make public his state of health and medical records, and the case lodged by television network ABS-CBN Corporation which challenged the halt-broadcast order issued by the National Telecommunications Commissions (NTC) last May 5.

The SC dismissed ABS-CBN’s petition on the ground of mootness considering the supervening denial last July 10 of the pending House Bills for the renewal of its legislative franchise that expired last May 4.

On the other hand, the petition questioning some provisions of Bayanihan to Heal as One Act was junked since the petitioner failed to show grave abuse of discretion committed by the government agencies implementing the programs against the COVID-19 pandemic.

In dismissing the petition on the President’s state of health, the SC ruled that “petitioner’s allegation that the President is seriously ill is unsubstantiated and is based merely on petitioner’s surmises and conjectures regarding his perception of the declining health of the President.”

Peralta said that “in the three cases and in all others decided by the SC, the Court based its ruling on existing laws and jurisprudence.”

“The SC, whether it sits en banc (full court) or in divisions of five members each, is and will always be a court of law as mandated by the 1987 Philippine Constitution,” he added.

He explained that the rules provide that “all decisions and actions in Court en banc cases shall be made upon the concurrence of the majority of the members of the Court who actually took part in the deliberations on the issue or issues involved and voted on them.”

In the divisions, he said that “all decisions and actions shall be made upon the concurrence of at least three members of the Division who actually took part in the deliberations on the issue or issues involved and voted on them.”

At the same time, Peralta said that “decisions are arrived at only after a learned discussion or deliberations by the en banc or the divisions.”

He also said that a case at the SC may also be scheduled for oral arguments.

Records showed that the petitions filed against the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020 under Republic Act No. 11479 will be heard in oral arguments next month.

There are now 30 petitions which seek to declare ATA as unconstitutional. The petitions also pleaded for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the law’s implementation that started last July 18.

“While the health crisis admittedly has adversely affected Court operations, this did not deter the Judiciary from administering its adjudicative functions. I and the other members of the High Court have imposed on ourselves to learn and adapt to technological advances so that we can continue working despite the lockdowns brought about by the pandemic,” Peralta said.

He added that through technology, SC justices were able to deliberate on cases even while they were forced to work from home due to the lockdowns.

The SC’s PIO featured a lockdown calendar in its website — http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/courts-status/ — to help court users, litigants, and lawyers in the adjustment of their court schedules during the health crisis.


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2020/08/28/wheels-of-justice-continue-to-grind-despite-covid-19-sc/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wheels-of-justice-continue-to-grind-despite-covid-19-sc)

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