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Cebu City judges seek leeway in deadlines

Local courts ‘cannot follow’ 90-day rule for cases due to quake damage
By: - Senior Reporter / @inquirervisayas
/ 06:58 AM November 30, 2013

Judges in Cebu City have asked the Supreme Court (SC) for leniency in being sanctioned if they fail to act on cases on time.

With the Palace of Justice declared off limits after the Oct. 15 earthquake caused heavy damage in the building, they said court operations are still hampered as a result of the calamity.

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Under the rules of court, judges have 90 days to resolve criminal cases submitted for decision after hearings wind up.

Foot-dragging on a case would bring on administrative sanctions from the Supreme Court.

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“We could not decide on cases within the reglementary period required by the Supreme Court. For one reason, our records are left inside the Palace of Justice,” said Cebu Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Simeon Dumdum Jr.

“I hope we, Cebu City judges, will be given a consideration by the Supreme Court,” he said in an interview.

While the High Court would likely consider the plight of Cebu City judges, Dumdum said judges want to make sure that they won’t be penalized for failure to resolve cases on time.

“We ask the Supreme Court not to strictly implement the rules for now. We’re afraid we might be sanctioned if we won’t be able to comply with the rules,” Dumdum said.

Judges expressed their request in a letter which RTC Executive Judge Soliver Peras sent to Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.

Two years ago, Cebuano Judge Augustine Vestil was fined P40,000 by the SC for failure to decide on cases within the reglementary period.

In its decision, the High Court reminded judges that the honor and integrity of the judicial system do not solely lie on “fairness and correctness of decisions rendered, but also by the efficiency with which disputes are resolved.”

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But Dumdum is hoping this wouldn’t be the case for Cebu City judges after they were asked to vacate the Palace of Justice which was declared “unfit for occupancy” due to the damage caused by the strong earthquake.

Some judges are conducting hearings in tents at the parking lot outside the Palace of Justice.

Hearings for detention prisoners , which are a priority because they are still considered innocent of the crime charged, will also be done in jail on a rotation basis.

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