Your Honor goes hi-tech
CLARK FREEPORT, Philippines – Writing decisions will be much faster soon for judges in 967 regional trial courts and 1,175 first level courts around the country. It will be just as speedy for the justices on both Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.
They will all become netizens because the Supreme Court has approved the purchase of USB 3G wireless thumb-drives that will directly connect them to the high court’s E-Library (electronic library database), Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said here on Friday.
“Internet connection for all court houses is now a necessity,” Carpio told members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in Central Luzon as he spoke about judicial reforms at their regional conference.
Expecting to be served first are metropolitan trial courts, municipal trial courts in cities and towns and municipal circuit trial courts.
Carpio said access to the Supreme Court’s E-Library, his brainchild, will “put at the fingertips of all judges nationwide all the jurisprudence and laws when they write their decisions.”
These, he said, include decisions of the high court since 1901, laws, circulars, manuals, and rules and regulations of government agencies that are filed with the University of the Philippines Law Center.
No information is available on how many judges and justices are computer-literate or if they at least use laptops or tablets.
According to Carpio, trial judges can also use the thumb-drives to upload their monthly reports on pending cases. This kind of reports can be sent to the Office of the Court Administrator through the Supreme Court’s Web site.
Judge Jovy Rosario Mercado, an RTC Pampanga judge, welcomed the improvement of access to the E-Library. She said she conducts research by WiFi (the popular term for accessing online information through wireless local area networks) in her home.
But judges and justices cannot surf the Web liberally. Carpio cautioned: “The USB thumb-drive cannot be used to go to any Web site other than the [Supreme Court] Web site.”
Lawyers like Victor Roque, who researches using the E-Library, said they have seen many courts without access to the Internet. “If they do, it’s for the court’s internal use,” he said.
But in Tuguegarao City two weeks ago for a hearing, Roque said he was able to use the WiFi of the IBP office there.
Carpio said the planned computerized case management system (CMS) in trial courts would automatically upload to the Office of the Court Administrator the updates on pending cases and other information trial courts are required to report.
Carpio thanked the World Bank for funding the E-Library and thumb-drives.
In a leaked aide memoire dated Dec. 28, 2011, the Wolrd Bank observed questionable procurements and disbursements by the Supreme Court under then Chief Justice Renato Corona in administering the bank-funded judicial reform support project.
However, the bank noted that the E-Library was a “significant early win” because its use was “steadily growing.”
The Wolrd Bank document said that “little has been done to disseminate the impressive usage data widely and effectively.” The thumb-drives apparently correct this gap in the court’s information technology system.