UniTeam senatorial candidate Harry Roque has urged the public to accept court delay as part of the justice system which can be remedied by a ‘three-day court hearing’ rule.
Roque lamented that the judiciary had become the government’s weakest link due to the turtle-paced legal process and case backlogs.
He said deadlines do not strictly bind even the Supreme Court to resolve cases.
The former presidential spokesman said it is time to bring back fear into criminals and corrupt individuals through a law mandating local courts to adjudicate legal disputes within three days.
Roque hopes the judiciary will welcome his proposal since it involves the expeditious disposition of cases and speedy dispensation of justice to crime victims.
He stated that despite the ‘Speedy Trial Act of 1998,’ trial court cases in the Philippines would last four years. He added that in the Sandiganbayan, which has criminal and civil jurisdiction over erring public servants, a case could go on for 10 years.
The speedy trial law prescribes that the trial period should not exceed 180 days for criminal cases filed before the Sandiganbayan and the lower courts.
As a litigator for 32 years, Roque said, “I can say that our court system is tedious, long, and costly, which demoralizes and stop people from filing cases. While I’m absolutely against it, I see why some have decided to take justice into their own hands.”
Roque cited, “In 2019, I filed cases before the Ombudsman against Philippine Health Insurance Corporation officials involved in medical upcasing and ghost dialysis. Three years after, they have not conducted any preliminary investigation.”
“I won’t be surprised if corrupt public servants are dismissive of their criminal and civil lawsuits because it might take the Ombudsman up to five years to start a legal proceeding on a case,” he added.
If elected to the Senate, Roque vowed to re-adopt the inquisitorial legal system that was in effect during the Spanish occupation of the Philippines. He said the country’s current weak system was patterned after the American adversarial system.
“The proposed law should apply to all domestic courts,” Roque said. “We’re confident in the capability of our court judges to render swift judgment with integrity and probity.”
Under the ‘three-day court hearing rule,’ court judges would be duty-bound to gather instead of passively receiving evidence from lawyers. They would have direct access to the affidavits of witnesses and vital legal documents such as medico-legal.
“This is similar to what the judges in several European courts do. It cuts down the lengthy cross-examination procedure and allows the judge to make a swift decision. Imagine a simple case concerning the non-payment of debt resolved within an hour or two,” he said.
The health and human rights advocate also promised to push for the Victims Compensation Fund for murder victims, ‘zero hunger’ by 2028, the right to potable water within six years, and job creation for pandemic-affected workers.
Roque has proposed to create a National Health Service that would efficiently implement Universal Health Care for all Filipinos.
He authored the healthcare act when he served as a party-list congressman in the 17th Congress.
He is also the primary sponsor of the free tuition for public college and university students, free irrigation services for farmers, a free school-feeding program for elementary pupils, and the national HIV and AIDS policy.