CJ Sereno wants speedy justiceBy Ador Vincent Mayol
Cebu Daily News
Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno said decongesting jails and speeding up the delivery of justice was a top priority for her.
In her first visit to Cebu courts yesterday she said operating mobile courts was one of her core programs.
“The Justice on Wheels program brings the face of the judiciary to the small people,” Sereno said in a speech during the relaunching of the Enhanced Justice on Wheels (EJOW) program in Mandaue City.
One beneficiary, 44-year-old inmate ito Lungtad saw the end of his seven years in jail.
Lungtad was cleared of illegal drug possession charges for insufficiency of evidence.
The court announced its verdict in a custom-built bus used by the Supreme Court (SC) for its EJOW program.
“Life inside jail is very difficult. You’re separated from your family. Now that I’m free, I will change my life,” Lungtad said in Cebuano.
The mobile court program was introduced in 2004 by then Cebuano chief justice Hilario Davide Jr.
Court employees applauded as Sereno entered the Palace of Justice in Cebu City. She shook hands with judges and some court employees.
In a dialog with Cebu judges, she promised to renovate the four-storey Palace of Justice and install an elevator.
Sereno was accompanied by Court Administrator Midas Marquez and the visiting Chief Justice of Nepal Kalyan Shresta.
Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes served as their hosts.
Sereno in her speech said that decongestion of jails is one of her priorities.
“Any day that a man is unjustly detained, we know that his cries for justice reach out to the heavens and there is less blessings for an unrighteous man that tolerates such injustice,” said Sereno,who is in her fourth week as the country’s top magistrate.
“We are not here to cater to the rich, the powerful and all those who have the means to defend themselves although we also are required to give them all the opportunities that they are entitled to under the law,” Sereno said.
“Under the constitution, the judiciary is required to bend over in order to help those who really need help the most. I’m talking about those who are voiceless, with no connections, not even the money to hire a good legal defense. We want to strengthen the quality of justice in our country.”
Sereno said she also wants to free judges from administrative burdens to give them time to resolve cases involving detention prisoners.
Sereno also said the SC would monitor the Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ rendering of mandatory free legal service.
The P8-million mobile court made its third visit in Mandaue City yesterday. Two mobile courts were parked outside CIty Hall and will proceed to Toledo City today.
The air-conditioned buses have two sections. The front serves as the courtroom while the rear is used as a mediation room.
The EJOW program aims to grant relief to inmates who are willing to enter a “guilty” plea during arraignment and who have served time in jail longer than their supposed sentence.
Associate Chief Justice Mariano del Castillo, chairman of the commmittee on EJOW, said the program has released at least 6,870 inmates across the country.
If this number is multiplied with the P65 daily allowance of each inmate, the government can save P443,000 daily, he said.
He said 14,962 inmates availed of medical aid, 4,192 underwent legal aid, while 13, 380 cases were resolved through mediation.