Atty. Sonny Pulgar’s Blog & personal website.

Anti-Poor Supreme Court

Sep 24, 2004Articles0 comments

The Constitution mandates that the Supreme Court shall promulgate rules and regulations that foster inexpensive litigation and the rendition of justice is conveniently made available to all. Thus, it shall

(p)romulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, the admission to the practice of law, the Integrated Bar, and legal assistance to the underprivileged . Such rules shall provide a simplified and inexpensive procedure for the speedy disposition of cases, shall be uniform for all courts of the same grade , and shall not diminish, increase, modify substantive rights. Rules of procedure of special courts and quasi-judicial bodies shall remain effective unless disapproved by the Supreme Court. {Art. VII, Section 5, 1987 Constitution, emphasis ours}

lawyer’s stupidity binds the client.

While the failure of petitioners to appear at the hearing is not so much due to their fault, but more to the lack of necessary diligence on the part of their counsel which resulted in their prejudice, the counsel’s negligence is binding upon the clients. A client is bound by the action of his counsel in the conduct of a case and cannot be heard to complaint that the result might have been different had counsel proceeded differently. His lawyer’s mistake binds him. If the lawyer’s mistake and negligence were to be admitted as reasons for reopening cases, there would never be an end to a suit so long as new counsel could be employed who could allege and show that prior counsel had not been sufficiently diligent or experienced. or learned. 3 The matter of affording relief from failure of party or his counsel to appear at the trial is largely discretionary with the judge, and his action may not be interfered with unless abuse is patent on the record. 4 Petitioners failed to make out a case of excusable negligence for non-appearance of their counsel at the October 16, 1966 hearing. ( CABALES and TORRES, petitioners,
vs. NERY and THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, respondents. G.R. No. L-31987 November 21, 1979 emphasis ours)

Why pass this on to the lowly litigant who only wanted some attention from the magistrates? They are not in the league of Danding Cojuangco or Imelda Marcos or The Estate of Ilusurio or The Guy Family that Owns 3D. In the absence of any of these earth-shaking requirements, the petition gets pinked. Pink is the color of the paper where the disposition of dismissal is written managed in one paragraph.

Thirdly, by August 16, 2004 all imaginable judicial docket fees are increased made much more beyond the reach of a typical Mang Pandoy. Going to court like the Municipal Trial Court is an ordeal to an ordinary wage earner, how much more elevating a case to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court where the poor party litigant has to shell out as basic filing fee the amount of P3, 000.00 or an increase of 200% from the previous one of P1, 000.00 whereas his minimum take home pay is pegged to P290.00 daily and stuck at that rate till kingdom come. The lawyer’s fee is not yet inputted in this computation. Faced with the prospect of an expense with such magnitude against the other pressing daily given visceral cost of living like food, medicine, tuition, and transportation money how do you prioritize your cerebral need for justice? Forget about justice. It’s only for the rich and influential. With unresolved conflicts as fodder to brewing unrest, history tells us that somewhere sometime something has to give. Revolutions are natural valves in a boiling society.

Justice dispensation is a key to a progressive and free society. Jose W. Diokno has formulated his ” jobs and justice; food and freedom ” answer to a lasting and egalitarian society. Without food, jobs and justice, three vital components in his vision, forget about an open social order.

Fourthly, in the determination of damages, the judicial discretion and the existing jurisprudence is basically anti-poor.

In granting the amount of moral damages, assuming a poor fellow deserves it in the first place, one criterion in its determination is the social standing of the aggrieved party. The Supreme Court has fixed the criteria in the award of moral damages in this jurisdiction ” by adequately considering the official, political, social, and financial standing of the offended parties on one hand, and the business and financial position of the offender on the other ” (Domingding v. Ng, 55 O.G. 10 cited in the case of Fernando Lopez et al vs. Pan American World Airways, G.R. No. L-22415, March 30, 1966 )

The Supreme Court is telling us that the sense of revulsion by the rich and the poor are worlds apart. The rich are generously compensated, while the poor are entitled to P10, 000.00 for the sleepless night, anxiety, and wounded feeling he suffered not only on the complained of incident but during the last ten years waging his lonely legal battle all the way to the Supreme Court. How much is the human life worth in this jurisdiction? Hold your breath. P50, 000.00! ” The indemnity for death caused by a quasi-delict (and crime) used to be pegged at P3, 000.00, based on Article 2206 of the Civil Code. However, the amount has been gradually increased through the years because of the declining value of our currency. At present, prevailing jurisprudence fixes the amount at P50, 000.00″ (Pestano, et al vs. Spouses Sumayang G.R. No. 139875, December 4, 2000 ). T en times cheaper than the motor vehicle that claimed it. Since the deceased is a lowly worker, his actual restitution for life expectancy is a measly token amount. His case is totally different from the hotshot who gets bumped off by a racist, discriminating international airline.

Fifthly, is the new 2004 Circular in the conduct of pre-trial conferences. The poor are invariably the victim of a violent crime. The poor fellow goes to court to seek some redress. Of course when an aggrieved party of a criminal act goes to court his recourse is two-pronged: the punishment of the guilty and making whole of the victim’s loss. In the new Circular however the trial courts thru their Clerks of Court are mandated to convince the parties to settle the civil aspect. In other words, forget about the vital function of the courts in meting out penalties on the convicted felon and his concomitant commitment to a penitentiary protective of society as a whole. Do you think once the offended heirs of the victims are paid would they still pursue the case? The criminal won’t pay unless the criminal charge is dropped. The lower courts are made to believe now that civil restitution is more important than sequestering a criminal away from us and in the process abate litigations. Is this the new policy of the Supreme Court? Do you think the rich will agree in the settlement of the civil damages arising from the crime committed against them? Not on your life. Placing more importance in the reduction of court load than dispensation of swift justice is appalling. What the Supreme Court wants is a golfing judiciary apparently.

Sixthly, the poor litigant has to state the material dates of when he received the shocking news that he lost before the inferior court. Has not the Supreme Court embarked on electronic networking or information technology? This information can be accessed as an added service to the poor litigant instead of ensnaring him into a trap of non-compliance with that requisite. There is a pervading feeling that the Supreme Court is not serious in the performance of its duty. If its objective is to approximate the prerogative of the US Federal Supreme Court, forget it. The latter can choose the cases it wants to resolve and only on constitutional issues at that given the sheer number of cases elevated to it from all over its jurisdiction. The US geography and demography are the telling distinctions. Whereas, our Supreme Court whether the controversy is constitutionally mind-boggling or involves questions of law or fact, is duty bound and must go the extra mile under the Constitution to at least glance on the cases elevated to it, not engaging in its present practice of peremptory rejection on the basis of missing particulars as we itemized here, certainly not the fault of Mang Pandoy.

Seventhly, the petition for review filed before the Court of Appeals under Rule 42 Section 2 must accompany relevant pleadings and other data:

Form and contents— The petition shall be filed in seven (7) legible copies, with the original copy intended for the court being indicated as such by the petitioner, and shall (a) state the full names of the parties to the case, without impleading the lower courts or judges thereof either as petitioners or respondents; (b) indicate the specific material dates showing that it was filed on time; (c) set forth concisely a statement of the matters involved, the issues raised, the specification of errors of fact or law, or both, allegedly committed by the Regional Trial Court, and the reasons or arguments relied upon for the allowance of the appeal; (d) be accompanied by clearly legible duplicate originals or true copies of the judgments or final orders of both lower courts, certified correct by the clerk of court of the Regional Trial Court, the requisite number of plain copies thereof and of the pleadings and other material portions of the record as would support the allegations of the petition. (Section 3, supra, emphasis ours)

In the absence of any of those requisites, the poor man’s petition faces rejection. This is an extra cost to the poor litigant as the Supreme Court located in Manila requires at least 18 copies of the pleading (under Rule 65) and 7 copies for the Court of Appeals (under Rule 42). Why the whole records can’t be sent to the Supreme Court instead? Has not it heard of courier service? Or why can’t an exception be crafted applicable only to pauper litigants?

But then the Supreme Court says that’s nice, but it boils down to logistics. It adds, we have no money to do what the poor litigant wants. With this rationalization, all the more it becomes anti-poor.

The framers of the Constitution for once never envisaged that the Supreme Court as a revenue agency. It is a pillar of strength without an army or purse. Its funding is the problem of the President and Congress.

But we should rest on the consolation that while 60 million of our people are poor and have no luxury of enjoying a Van Gogh, we have an institution called the Supreme Court: dispenser of justice, champion of the poor. Or is it?



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