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Judicial drag

Like human arteries, our courts have been all clogged up long before the onset of the 2019 coronavirus disease pandemic.

The pandemic – fast approaching a full year of unchecked devastation of human lives and untold fortunes – only added more weight to the judicial drag.

The wheels of justice were already turning agonizingly slow before Covid-19’s rampage, and considering the prevailing infection trends, expect the disposition of cases to remain at snail’s pace.

Court dockets had been piling up with a backlog of cases even earlier than the first quarter of this year. The World Health Organization officially declared a global state of pandemic in mid-March.

With the elongated community quarantine, the resort to digital, not personal interface for court proceedings, and the physical courtrooms themselves providing a conducive platform and climate for a viral bloom, the bunching up of cases was a logical consequence.

Here’s a judicial load snap shot: The Supreme Court was grappling with 8,852 pending cases last year; the Court of Appeals, 19,732; the Sandiganbayan, 5,237; the Court of Tax Appeals, 1,353; the second-level courts, 546,182 and entry-level courts, 160,153.

The accumulated case load prompted Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta to assure that the Judiciary would launch multi-pronged initiatives to tackle the the problem.

In fact, prior to the pandemic, Peralta had proposed and introduced changes to the Rules of Court to quicken the case-resolution process.

Among them: The tighter monitoring of the issuance of temporary restraining orders and inhibition of judges and the strict implementation of the rules on the reglementary period in resolving motions, etc.

The CJ deserves credit for his efforts to fast-track the judicial process, but his exertions are being torpedoed by some litigants and their lawyers, shy of mocking the High Tribunal.

A case in point is the long, winding legal road for Felix Chua, a businessman from Lucena City, who has been trying to recover his property from a joint venture that went awry with Gotesco Properties, a business transaction that started in March, 1997 that also involved the United Coconut Planters Bank.

The High Court’s Special Third Division led by then Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin ordered the UCPB to return to the Chua couple “the equivalent of 49.44 percent of the total area of the 30 parcels of land involved in the transactions, estimated at P200 million” which was in excess of the amount of the loan originally secured by the Chuas.

On Aug. 16, 2017, the SC flagged the bank’s assignment of the obligations of Jose Go, a partner of the Chuas, involving the Lucena Grand Terminal, without their consent.

What ensued was a serial blizzard of petitions and motions for reconsideration from lawyers of UCPB and SPV-AMC — Ludivino Geron, Ismael Andres Isip, Hortensio Domingo.

Surely, the SC does not deserve unnecessary loads added to the big bundle of cases it has been mightily trying to wipe out.

We believe the CJ is in the right direction in instituting various reforms to speed up the administration of justice and the disposition of cases.

And a vigilant must be grateful for that.

But since justice delayed is simply justice denied, better late than never is simply unacceptable to all participants in the process.

The sooner a case is resolved with finality, the better for all parties to pick up the pieces and move on.