By Hannah Torregoza
Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara has endorsed for plenary approval a bill creating “judges-at-large” positions in the lower courts.
The measure, Senate Bill No. 2065, which seeks to amend the Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 or the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980 aims to help unclog court dockets and speed up the resolution of cases.
In sponsoring the proposed “Judges-At-Large Act of 2018,” Angara said Filipinos can “somehow expect the wheels of justice in the country to turn faster” with the appointment of acting or assisting judges in regional and municipal trial courts across the country.
The senator said these so-called “judges-at-large”—who shall have no permanent salas and can be detailed by the Supreme Court to any lower court—will help ensure that “justice is not only served timely, but also swiftly.”
“This measure is but another step in our long-standing quest to make sure that justice is never delayed and denied in the Philippines,” Angara said in his sponsorship speech delivered at the Senate plenary on Monday.
“It also becomes part of our efforts to make justice real and alive to our people,” said Angara, who chairs the Senate committee on local government.
Angara strongly believes the measure is a solution to court delays brought about by the shortage of judges to hear cases.
“Because of the lack of judges in the countryside, court cases are left pending in the salas of the lower court judges. And the people have no choice but to wait—most of the time, while they are in jail,” Angara said.
Citing a study by the National Statistical Coordination Board from 2005 to 2010, Angara said that lower courts had an annual average load of 1,059,484 cases.
This translates to over 4,000 cases per working day, according to the lawmaker.
Latest data from the Senate Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office (LBRMO) showed that out of the 37,230 total positions in the Supreme Court and the lower courts, 12,076 are unfilled—or roughly a third.
Since these judges-at-large have no salas, they can be deployed to any regional or municipal trial court in the country.
The bill, which was authored by Senators Angara, Richard Gordon, Loren Legarda and Sherwin Gatchalian, is now under Committee Report No. 496 and is pending second reading.