Having practiced law for more than 1 year now, I bemoan the fact that the wheels of justice in this country (The Philippines) is just too slow. Practicing law here is very discouraging. The primary reason for this is of course because of the big “C” (Corruption) which is also the problem of most government offices. Add to that inefficiency, ineffectiveness, laziness of the court staff who are always sitting down in their office furniture and taking it easy and of course judicial sloth. I blogged about this sad personal experience on our court’s inefficiency in the blog post entitled “Inefficiency, the mother of all injustice.”
Being an industrial engineer at the same time, I always put my “IE mind” to work everyday and in every situation that I experience. Industrial engineers are trained to improve systems. We believe that “There is always a better way.” This is the mindset that Industrial Engineers are always trained to think. This is the mindset that Frederick Taylor the father of modern Industrial engineering has established. There is indeed always a better of doing things.
As I practice in court, I noticed some things that need to be eliminated and changed in order to find a better way to speed up the proceedings. Speeding up court proceedings will of course benefit society as a whole and will help the judiciary achieve its constitutional mandate of giving the citizenry a speedy disposition of their cases. Being connected with Jurists Bar review center, I sometimes engage in discussion with some of the most brilliant legal minds regarding the improvement of court processes in this country.
One of the things that I believe is slowing down our court processes is the language barrier. There are several effects of this problem. First, court proceedings are delayed because what is being said to the witnesses and parties to the case has to be translated from English to the local dialect and vice versa since only English is being used by the courts. Secondly, the parties involved in the case who do not know how to speak English do not understand what is being litigated. Lastly, I believe it is better to cross examine a witness in his or her local dialect because translating the questions would give the witness more time to think about what he is suppose to say. This affects the witnesses’ spontaneity and affects the determination of whether a witness is telling the truth or not.
I discussed this problem in my Legal Profession class. I pointed out that fact that even the late Justice Irene Cortes, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and former dean of the U.P college of law highlighted this problem in her speech “Education in the law: Philippine experience” which was delivered at the Seminar on Legal Cooperation in ASEAN held at Jakarta Indonesia on August 9, 1982.
In this speech, Justice Cortes praised the Indonesian justice system for being ahead of the Philippines because the Indonesian Justice system uses Bahasa Indonesia as the official language and as a medium of instruction. She continues to say that “There are those of us in the Philippines who have begun to give serious thoughts to using our own language in legal education. The need for this is even more urgent in the courts now clogged with unresolved disputes.” She continues to say that “One of the factors for delay is most certainly the language problem since in court proceedings multiple-level interpretation would be required when witnesses, counsel and judge do not share the same language.”
It is only after more than 26 years that the dream of Justice Cortes is finally realized. I was surprised when the Philippine Daily Inquirer carried the good news entitled “SC: Use of Filipino language in courts ‘positive’” Chief Justice Puno says that initial efforts to use the Filipino language in court proceedings have yielded encouraging results.
Although it is still in its “experimental” stage as it is only being implemented in some pilot areas this indeed is a positive development in our judicial system.
Using “Filipino” in courts in the Tagalog speaking areas of the country might improve the court processes. But for some part of the country it might become a bane instead of a boon. The reason for such is that in the Visayas and Mindanao areas where the “Visayan” dialect is used, using “Filipino” would only aggravate the language barrier problem since the local population is not very well versed in speaking “Filipino.”
The solution therefore is to follow the American justice system model. Court processes must be localized and a Federal form of government must be adopted wherein each state will have its own State Supreme Court that uses the local dialect of a certain locality. A Philippine Supreme Court will still maintain control over the federal courts. Only cases submitted to the Philippine Supreme Court will have to be translated to English. This of course requires a major overhaul of our present 1987 Constitution.
So when will this “experiment” of using the Filipino dialect in court processes be finally implemented? I hope it will not take another 26 years! If it will take that long then we are only giving truism to the saying that justice delayed is indeed justice denied.