New CJ Peralta to focus on cleansing ranks, improving court processes

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 28 2019 12:54 PM | Updated as of Oct 28 2019 01:38 PM

MANILA – Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta on Monday unveiled his 10-point plan for the Supreme Court, with emphasis on cleansing his own ranks and improving court processes.

Peralta said he will continue to weed out “misfits from the judiciary” and adopt a system where the Supreme Court “may initiate on its own the investigation of cases being handled by members of the judiciary even in the absence of complaints,” during his first flag raising ceremony at the high court following his appointment Wednesday as the 26th Chief Justice.

The top magistrate told the Judicial and Bar Council earlier this month he intended to use the principle of “res ipsa loquitor” (Latin for “the thing speaks for itself”) in justifying investigations into cases against judges and justices even without a complaint, when the decision itself clearly shows misappreciation of facts, wrong interpretation of the law, bias in favor of a party or if the justice or judge did not inhibit when warranted.

To do this, Peralta said during his speech at the high court, he will impose timelines in resolving administrative complaints, including those initiated by the Court.

NOT FIRST TIME

If implemented, this will not be the first time the high court will investigate a case against one of its own even without a complaint.

In September 2014, the Supreme Court en banc dismissed then-Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Gregory Ong after he was implicated in the pork barrel scam involving Janet Lim-Napoles.

Reports said Ong “partied” and was photographed with Napoles and no less than whistleblowers Benhur Luy and Marina Sula claimed Ong “fixed” the malversation case against Napoles and her cohorts.

Napoles and her husband were acquitted of falsification of public documents and graft at the Sandiganbayan in connection with the anomalous purchase of Kevlar helmets. 

Ong was part of the division that handled the case and Luy accused him of receiving money form Napoles.

Ong denied the allegations but admitted lapses in judicial ethics. 

The Supreme Court found him guilty of gross misconduct, dishonesty and impropriety.

JUDICIAL INTEGRITY BOARD 

Peralta also wants to implement the establishment of the Judicial Integrity Board, created by the SC in October 2018 to act on complaints against erring justices, judges, and court personnel.

His fellow-magistrate, Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, had also referred to the JIB in her interview with the JBC.

Amidst concerns of JIB’s overlapping jurisdiction with the Office of the Court Administrator, Peralta said he will seek to harmonize their functions.

He said he will also strengthen the OCA to be able to monitor the performance of the lower courts and address their concerns.

REVISIONS TO COURT PROCEDURES

Peralta, a known expert in criminal law and procedure, promised to implement and continue revisions to rules on court procedures. 

His predecessor, retired Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, had tapped him to lead efforts to revise the Rules of Court, among other rules.

“By the end of this year, we will be implementing the rules on search and inspection order provided for under the Philippine Competitive Commission Law. And early next year, we will implement the special rules on admiralty cases and in the middle of the year, the amendments on the rules of procedure and rules of evidence,” he said in his speech.

“In due time, I will constitute a committee to study the possibility of amending our present rules of procedures, criminal procedures. The last amendment was in December of 2000 and there’s a need to amend the rules on criminal procedure,” he added.

Peralta said he will advocate automation of court processes.

Under Bersamin, the SC approved rules on video-conferencing in testimonies and had pilot-tested it in a court in Davao City.

In the face of a growing number of lawyers, prosecutors and judges being killed in the country, Peralta said he will strengthen security of judges, justices and halls of justice and will study adopting a marshal system patterned after the United States marshals system. 

Rounding up his 10-point agenda, the new Chief Justice said he will also seek to improve procurement and bidding processes as well as create a strategic planning management unit to ensure court projects are aligned with the country’s national development plans.

He also plans to continue Bersamin’s efforts to improve clinical legal education and ensure the welfare of court employees.

He vowed to lead by example.

“As the 26th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and as a long time public servant I will lead by example,” he said during his speech.

“Secondly, to achieve our goals and aspirations, each and everyone in the judiciary must be guided by this motto which should now by heart: let us be united and let us follow the rules,” he added.

Peralta will serve until his retirement in March 2022.