CJ Sereno eyes subpoenas sent electronically

MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno foresees the Philippine judiciary soon serving electronic subpoenas and notices to parties involved in a case.

In a statement released Thursday, February 18, the SC Public Information Office (PIO) said Sereno envisions a "technology-savvy Judiciary." 

The first female chief justice of the country, Sereno revealed her plans on utilizing electronically-sent subpoenas during the launch of the judiciary's "Enhanced Justice on Wheels" (EJOW) in Mandaluyong City on Valentine's Day.

Now on her second year as chief magistrate, she believes serving court summons through electronic means will help curb the time-consuming process outlined in the rules of court. Nitty-gritty details of the plan, however, have yet to be revealed.

Issued by the clerk of court, a subpoena "may be served by the sheriff, his deputy, or other proper court officer, or for justifiable reasons by any suitable person authorized by the court." 

It will be handed personally to the defendant "whenever predictable" or will be received and signed for by another person who will be "tendering it to him."

Delays in cases

Sereno on Valentine's Day also asked the public “to bear with the judiciary” while it combats delays in the resolution of cases.

Sereno said one of the reasons for delays in resolving cases is the lack of government prosecutors – a sentiment she had already shared with Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas and Justice Secretary Leila De Lima.

“All concerned agencies in the criminal justice system should coordinate. We all should communicate,” she said.

The heavy volume of caseload also adds to the delays.

According to the National Statistical Coordination Board, from 2005-2010, Philippine lower courts were confronted with an annual average caseload of more than one million – equivalent to an average of around 4,221 cases per working day.

In 2012, SC Justice Antonio Carpio wrote in Rappler that 21% of trials take 2 to 5 years to finish, while 13% take more than 5 years. 

The judiciary, he said, does not fully comply with constitutionally-prescribed case disposition timelines: "not more than 24 months for the Supreme Court, not more than 12 months for all other appellate courts, and not more than 3 months for all other lower courts, all counted from the date of submission for resolution of the case."

"Since public office is a public trust, the judiciary must account to the public for the clogged dockets," Carpio wrote.

Internet for greater transparency

The vision for a "technology-savvy Judiciary" is one that Sereno has maintained since her appointment. 

"The Internet has become a means to enhance transparency and to expand access to important information – information the public considers as rightfully belonging to the public domain," said Sereno.

She allowed for the first time the live audio streaming online of oral arguments being heard by the justices.

"This is an innovation that has been widely applauded by the public, parts of whom are saying, now they don't have to travel all the way to the session hall of the Supreme Court to understand how the arguments are proceeding," she earlier explained. – Rappler.com