Maayong hapon kaninyong tanan. It is a pleasure to be back here in the “Queen City” of the South, renowned for its hospitality and warmth and the angelic voices of its people. Only a month ago, on October 8, I visited Cebu to speak at the 13th Human Life International Asia-Pacific Congress on Faith, Life, and Family, held at the Parklane International Hotel.
I was visited during the conference by the justices of the Court of Appeals and it was then that plans for this marker-laying ceremony were discussed. Upon arrival in Manila, I had the matter placed on the agenda and requested the Court to act on it. Fortunately, the Court en banc’s approval was issued immediately on October 10, 2006.
A Building for CA Cebu
As you may be aware, the dream to build a modern and distinguished Court of Appeals building to cater to our Visayan compatriots was started in 2004. On December 4 of that year, my esteemed predecessor, then Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr., issued Administrative Circular No. 61-2004. Appropriated from the 20 percent allocation for equipment and facilities of the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) was the sum of P80 million — P40 million each for the CA buildings in Cebu City and Cagayan de Oro City. This appropriation was approved and confirmed by the Court en banc in a resolution dated December 14, 2004.
The original appropriation of P40 million for the Cebu CA building was later increased to P70 million in December 2005, prompting changes in the design and specifications of the structure. Consequently, plans for early construction had to be shelved. In the meantime, the CA here in Cebu has had to occupy a rented building.
While the revised Terms of Reference for the Cebu project were being drawn up, we were happy to note a number of welcome developments. Upon the suggestions of Chief Justice Davide and court officials, other facilities including an auditorium and an area for the Regional Court Administrator’s Office (RCAO) have been incorporated into the project design. The revised TOR also offers better features and amenities for the Cebu CA building, which will occupy a floor area of around 3,650 square meters.
For its part, the provincial government of Cebu was generous enough to donate to the judiciary this more than 2,000 square meter piece of land for the permanent site of the CA Cebu building. The property was transferred formally to the Supreme Court last year. Thus, in a very special way we thank the Province of Cebu for its generosity and support.
I am delighted to report that the revised TOR for the Cebu CA building was finally approved by the Court en banc on October 10, 2006, two days after my last visit to this city. Thus, the construction is expected to begin very soon.
A Most Historic Date for Cebu Court of Appeals
This marker-laying ceremony is therefore a historic event for the Court of Appeals in Cebu. It is especially gratifying because it brings to fruition the efforts initiated by Chief Justice Davide, the commitment of the present leadership of the Supreme Court, and the generous support of the provincial government of Cebu. Moreover, it brings us a step closer to our objective of delivering enhanced public service through a more accessible judiciary. Indeed, bringing the Court of Appeals closer to the people, a vision that was begun in 1996 through Republic Act 8246, has now become a reality.
I am reminded of an equally significant event in history. On April 14, 1521, the advent of Christianity in these islands was ushered in by Cebu, when King Humabon and his wife, Queen Juana, received the sacrament of baptism. In much the same way, we are once again making Cebu a gateway, this time to the judiciary. You can say that in 1521, Cebu helped spread the faith; in 2006, it facilitated access to justice. Thus, this occasion should be a source of special pride to all Cebuanos!
The laying of this marker for the future Court of Appeals building also reminds me of how we, in the judiciary, have assiduously planted the seeds of judicial reforms through the Action Program for Judicial Reform. Initiated in the year 2000 by my illustrious predecessor Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr., the APJR stands as a testament to our earnest desire to give our people the public service they want and deserve. For this reason, the construction of a Court of Appeals building in Central Philippines marks another achievement of the APJR.
Improving the Workplace
In the early 1990s, the Supreme Court started computerizing its administrative, personnel and financial processes. Lately, we have also embarked upon the building of model electronic courts in selected areas, as a preview to a future nationwide courtroom construction program. This program has been launched in the cities of Angeles, Cagayan de Oro and, of course, in your very own city of Lapu-lapu.
I am happy to report that the groundbreaking ceremonies for the Hall of Justice in Angeles City were held just last month, on October 12, 2006. Later today at 5:00 pm, we will have a topping-off ceremony for the Hall of Justice in Lapu-lapu City. Soon also, the old Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) building, located on Arroceros Street in Manila, will be rehabilitated for its eventual conversion into a modern Hall of Justice for Manila trial courts.
Greater Access to Justice
The construction of new homes for all our courts is tangible proof of the steadfast faith and determination of the judiciary to overcome some of its pressing problems. I refer to these ills as the four ACID problems that corrode justice in our country; namely, (1) limited access to justice by the poor; (2) corruption; (3) incompetence; and (4) delay in the delivery of quality judgments.
I hope that the creation of this permanent structure for the Court of Appeals would make justice more accessible and affordable to the people of the Visayas. Our litigants will no longer have to bear the additional expense of flying to Manila to argue or follow up their appealed cases. Likewise, our limited share in the national budget will no longer be strained further by the high cost of renting office space. The resulting savings could then be put to better use, perhaps in the form of additional compensation or benefits for court employees.
Less Delay in Resolving Cases
Deficient and dilapidated court infrastructure affects the performance and image of the courts nationwide. Conversely, a more conducive working environment and better facilities are expected to cut delay in the resolution of cases. In addition, a physically and structurally dignified courthouse should serve as a psychological or morale boost to our magistrates, court officials and employees.
For all of you who are working here in the Cebu City Court of Appeals, you shall soon be occupying one of the newest and best-looking courthouses in the country. And I say rightfully so, because our justices in the 18th, 19th, and 20th Divisions of the Court of Appeals deserve a place befitting their stature in our court system.
As members of the penultimate court in the judicial hierarchy, our CA justices are worthy of distinguished halls and chambers that echo the dignity with which they carry out their noble and sacred task of dispensing quality justice. In much the same manner, our court employees deserve to have a respectable work space that would inspire in them the spirit of genuine public service.
Values to Keep
In keeping with our objectives of dispensing honest, efficient and accountable public service, let me remind you of the three things I have asked of all our 26,000 court employees nationwide. These values are best encapsulated in the code DHL: dedication to duty, honesty in every way, and full loyalty to the judiciary and to the Supreme Court.
To our nine CA justices, I pose the additional challenge of living out the four Ins: integrity, independence, industry and intelligence; and of being morally courageous to stand their ground against the onslaughts of influence, interference, and indifference. By observing these qualities, they will truly deserve the esteemed positions they occupy in the judicial branch.
Admittedly, the ACID problems being addressed by the APJR cannot be solved overnight. Though I wish to, I know I will no longer witness the fruition of all our efforts during the remainder of my term. As all of you know, I am retiring in about two weeks’ time. Nevertheless, I am confident that, with the continued cooperation and hard work of all those whom I will leave behind, this great endeavor for judicial reforms would go forward steadily. The seeds of judicial reform have been planted as firmly as the marker we laid today.
Remarks delivered by Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban during the marker-laying ceremony for the Court of Appeals (Cebu) building. The ceremony was held on November 24, 2006, at the Department of Agriculture Compound, M. Velez St., Cebu City.
Administrative Matter (AM) No. 04-12-03-SC.
Administrative Circular No. 66-2005.
AM No. 04-12-03-SC.
Entitled “An Act Creating Additional Divisions in the Court of Appeals, Increasing the Number of Court of Appeals Justices from Fifty-one (51) to Sixty-nine (69), Amending for the Purpose Batas Pambansa Bilang 129, As Amended, Otherwise Known as the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, Appropriating Funds Therefor, and For Other Purposes.” Section 3 of RA 8246 reads:
“SECTION 3. Section 10 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended, is hereby further amended to read as follows:
“Sec. 10. Place of Holding Sessions. — The Court of Appeals shall have its permanent stations as follows: The first seventeen (17) divisions shall be stationed in the City of Manila for cases coming from the First to the Fifth Judicial Regions; the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Divisions shall be in Cebu City for cases coming from the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Judicial Regions; the Twenty-first, Twenty-second and Twenty-third Divisions shall be in Cagayan de Oro City for cases coming from the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Judicial Regions. x x x” (Emphasis supplied)
Justices Arsenio Magpale, chairperson; and Justices Marlene Gonzales-Sison and Antonio L. Villamor, members.
Justice Isaias P. Dicdican, chairperson; and Justices Romeo F. Barza and Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla, members.
Justice Pampio A. Abarintos, chairperson; and Justices Agustin S. Dizon, member.