By Jeffrey Damicog
The Supreme Court (SC) on Saturday boasted that criminal cases are now being resolved more quickly following the implementation of its Revised Guidelines of Continuous Trial in Criminal Cases since September last year.
The SC reported that 47.82 of cases have complied with the 180-day period for trial provided by law and the Rules of Court compared to the 2.36 percent prior to the effectivity of the Revised Guidelines.
The high tribunal added cases are also being decided more swiftly with 68.50 percent of judgments have been promulgated within the 90-day period required under the Constitution, compared to only 37.75 percent in previous cases.
“We are still at the early stages of implementation and I expect the results to be better in the months ahead,” said Justice Diosdado Peralta, who drafted the Revised Guidelines, in a statement.
Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez observed that improvement comes from the simplified criminal procedure.
“The streamlining of procedure and the strict requirements under the Guidelines have improved the performance of courts in terms of disposing criminal cases,” Marquez said.
Peralta explained the innovations and simplification introduced in the Guidelines are intended to remove redundancies in criminal procedure.
“The Guidelines try to address the bottlenecks we saw in criminal cases,” Peralta explained.
Among others, the Revised Guidelines provides a list of prohibited pleadings which cause delay in criminal cases and requires judges to preschedule all hearing dates.
“The trial dates for both the prosecution and defense are set during arraignment. This is binding on the parties and cannot be rescheduled,” said Peralta who noted that postponements of hearings have been considered a major cause of delay.
On the other hand, Peralta cited that out of the 94,209 drugs cases filed from September 2017 to June 2018, 7.89 percent have complied with the 60-day trial period.
Peralta said this is an improvement compared to the 0.02 percent prior the implementation of the 2017 Revised Guidelines.
“Although we are failing in drugs cases insofar as the 60-day period to finish trial from the filing of the Information is concerned, these cases were nevertheless decided within the 10-month period since the implementation of the Guidelines,” he said.
Aside from this, the magistrate cited that the 15-day period required under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 to decide drugs cases reached an all-time high of 57.37 percent compared to the pre-Guidelines rate of 12.58 percent.
The SC noted that 2017 saw a rise in the number of drugs cases with a total number of 289,295 filed with the trial courts, but with only 34,673 or 12 percent disposed.
The Revised Guidelines on Continuous Trial in Criminal Cases took effect on September 1, 2017 after it was piloted in 54 trial courts in Metro Manila.
The program was implemented with support from The Asia Foundation and the American Bar Association, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
“We are successful because of the technical and funding support from our development partners that helped us in this initiative,” Peralta said..