Go online, DBM's Abad urges Supreme Court

Jonathan de Santos
Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom
3 September 2012
Supreme Court Philippines
Supreme Court. (File photo by NPPA Images)

The judiciary should spend more time online, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said, to promote transparency and accountability in the country's courts.

And budget shouldn't be an issue, as the Department of Budget and Management vowed support for an online information system to make the judiciary more accessible.

Abad said the digitization of the Supreme Court's processes will "boost operational efficiency and allow little to no room for abuse or irregularities." Abad said the judiciary could even create an online system that will make information on pending cases available to the public.

"This way, anyone can check the status of their cases online and monitor its progress from there, without having to make multiple visits or phone calls to a judge’s office," he said. That will also make it easier to identify which cases are taking too long to resolve, he said.

He also called on the Supreme Court to publish court decisions from lower courts online. "The public will thus be informed on how certain issues have been settled, especially on matters that bear a significant impact on government and the people’s welfare. This way, the Supreme Court can enlighten the public on key judicial matters, as well as maintain a posture of dignified silence," Abad said.

The Supreme Court already publishes its decisions and administrative matters on its website.

Abad said the national budget can also support the creation of an internal human resources and payroll management system for the Supreme court as well as other government offices. The system is meant to maintain up-to-date records of court employees and ensure that salaries and benefits are released on time.

Money can also go into an online database that will allow the judiciary to track allocations and fund releases.

"The judiciary’s fiscal autonomy—while essential in preserving the separation of powers in government—has also posed serious challenges in ensuring transparency and accountability in the court system. A judicial fiscal management and information system may help ensure that, should the High Court decide to undertake such an initiative," Abad explained.

The judiciary could also take advantage of social media to help the public understand the legal system, he said.

In a related development, the Office of the Ombudsman has begun implementing a centralized database so it can monitor cases and complaints better.

It began implementing its Complaint and Case Monitoring System this month to allow more efficient searches, more accurate reports, and better tracking
of the status of cases.

Before the implementation of the CCMS, the different agencies under the Office of the Ombudsman used different systems and database to track complaints and cases they were handling.

The CCMS was developed by the Office of the Ombudsman from open-source software to reduce costs. "The in-house development of the system adds assurance that the data is kept internally and reduces the risk of leaking very valuable information, aside from the added security features in the system itself and in the agency’s network infrastructure," the Office of the Ombudsman said.

To ensure confidentiality of information, the access to the CCMS will be restricted to authorized users on a need-to-know basis.

The implementation of the CCMS is part of the Office of the Ombudsman's seven-year roadmap, with priority on the development of a monitoring system "to ensure no delay without just cause in the termination of the appropriate administrative proceedings."

"Criminal cases referred to the National Prosecution Service of the Department of Justice for prosecution in the regular trial courts shall be monitored until their final disposition in court. Ombudsman decisions in administrative cases endorsed to the heads of concerned agencies for implementation of the penalty shall be strictly monitored to ensure compliance," the Ombudsman's seven-year road map reads.