Sy Juco, Mary Angeline: Electronic court document repositories and their direct effect on substantive rights of litigants

I. INTRODUCTION

“All persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies.” [1] Unfortunately, the aforesaid Constitutional provision cannot always be invoked due to a lot of factors that impede the process of administering proceedings such as: fortuitous events, unduly delay of the proceedings caused by counsels, and inadequate facilities to maintain documentary records.

The issue of documentation may seem to be easy to solve and does not entail that much problem as to the conduct of every judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding. However, records in a proceeding are not meant to last for a long time due to the materials being used in documentation and the manner employed in maintaining such documents, this is where the problem comes in and is more likely prevalent in a judicial proceeding.

Philippine Courts are inefficient in terms of providing prompt action regarding the concerns of its litigants. The reality is that, court records are printed in an ordinary piece of paper which may be printed in a bond paper or in an onion skin type of paper. Imagine what would the appearance of the document be, ten or twenty years after? Taints will appear all over the paper, and what is even worst, is when the words printed on the document fades and subsequently will become unreadable. What if the whole case records of were burnt by fire, soaked in water or eaten up by termites? How could this type of documentation be relied upon? What can be the recourse of the litigants in such cases?

Administering judicial processes is crucial for whatever may be the outcome of the proceeding, a right may be vested or a person may be deprived of his right. The reality of court processes entails a lot of procedure starting from the filing of the case until the rendering of the final judgment wherein a “proper documentation” is of the essence.

This paper will provide a clear picture of the interplay of different government agencies in connection to the administration of criminal and civil proceedings, how improper documentation impede the disposition of cases, and how such problems could be properly addressed by ELECTRONIC DOCUMENT REPOSITORIES.

II. A BIRD’S EYEVIEW OF COURT PROCEDURES

A. CRIMINAL CASES

A criminal action is one by which the State prosecutes a person for an act or omission punishable by law. [2]

A criminal action is instituted by filing a complaint before an appropriate office. How is this done? In some cases, complaints are prepared by counsels; there are cases wherein aggrieved parties seek assistance of the Station Investigation Detective Management Bureau (SIDMB) and Women and Child Protection’s Desk of the Philippine National Police to prepare their complaints.

A complaint is usually printed in an ordinary piece of paper, after which, the same shall be filed before the Office of the Prosecutor, or before the Municipal Trial Court depending on the nature of the offense.

When Information for a complaint by an aggrieved party has already been filed in court, the court, where the case was raffled, shall maintain the records of the case and the said record shall be relied upon by the judge, the counsels, and the parties to a case as the conduct of court proceeding moves on.

There are other government entities that are connected in the administration of a criminal action as well as the custody and monitoring of the accused once an information has already been filed, these government entities consist of the following:

a. Office of the Prosecutor- when a criminal case is filed in court, the prosecutor plays a vital role in prosecuting a criminal action. All criminal actions commenced by a complaint or information shall be prosecuted under the direction and control of the prosecutor. [3]

b. Public Attorney’s Office (PAO)-is an agency attached to the Department of Justice (DOJ) that provides free legal assistance to indigent litigants. It is mandated to provide indigent sector the access to counsel at the time of need, and implement the constitutional guarantee of free access to courts, due process and able protection of the laws [4]

c. Philippine National Police (PNP)-it provides law enforcement services through its regional, provincial, municipal, district and local police units all over the islands. enforce the law, to prevent and control crimes, to maintain peace and order, and to ensure public safety and internal security with the active support of the community. [5] It is the agency tasked in serving search warrants and warrants of arrest.

d. National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)-an agency of the Philippine government under the Department of Justice responsible for handling or solving sensational cases that is in the interest of the nation. [6]

e. Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP)-was created to address growing concern of jail management and penology problem. Its clients are detainees accused before a court who are temporarily confined in such jails while undergoing investigation, waiting final judgment and those who are serving sentence promulgated by the court 3 years and below. [7]

f. Bureau of Corrections (BUCOR)-is an agency under the Department of Justice that is responsible for the custody and rehabilitation of offenders sentenced to more than 3 years in prison. [8]

g. Parole and Probation Administration (PPA)- (Pangasiwaan sa Parol at Probasyon), abbreviated as PPA, is an agency of the Philippine government under the Department of Justice responsible for providing a less costly alternative to imprisonment of offenders who are likely to respond to individualized community based treatment programs. [9] Its function includes the exercise of general supervision over all parolees, and probationers. [10]

h. Board of Pardons and Parole, created by virtue of Act No. 4103 (1933) known as the Indeterminate Sentence Law, is an agency under the Department of Justice (DOJ) tasked to uplift and redeem valuable human resources to economic usefulness and to prevent unnecessary and excessive deprivation of personal liberty by way of parole or through executive clemency. [11]

A.1 Posting of Bail

There are two (2) ways wherein Information may be filed against an accused in Court, one of which is by conducting a preliminary investigation. It is an inquiry or proceeding to determine whether there is sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed and the respondent is probably guilty thereof, and should be held for trial. [12] If the investigating prosecutor finds cause to hold respondent for trial, he shall prepare resolution and information. [13]

The Regional Trial Court, within ten (10) days from the filing of the complaint or information, the judge shall personally evaluate the resolution of the prosecutor and its supporting evidence. He may immediately dismiss the case if the evidence on record clearly fails to establish probable cause. If he finds probable cause he shall issue a warrant of arrest, [14] the same procedure with the Municipal Trial Court.

Another way wherein an Information may be filed in court is when the accused was arrested without warrant of arrest when a person. A peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person:

(a) When in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing or is attempting to commit an offense;

(b) When an offense has just been committed, he has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts and circumstances that a person to be arrested has committed it; and

(c) When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or place where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another. [15]

When a person is lawfully arrested without a warrant involving an offense which requires preliminary investigation, the complaint or information may be filed by the prosecutor without the need of such investigation provided that an inquest has been conducted. [16]

When an accused was arrested whether by virtue of a warrant of arrest or when lawfully arrested without a warrant, the person arrested shall be placed under detention. Initially, after being arrested, the accused is confined in a so called DETENTION CELL that is maintained by the Philippine National Police. When the court has issued a COMMITMENT ORDER, accused is then transferred to a penal institution which caters person arrested with pending cases, in most areas in the Philippines, particularly in Metro-Manila, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

The problem in the inefficiency of court records comes in when a person arrested intends to post bail (Is the security given for the release of a person in custody of law, furnished by him or a bondsman, to guarantee his appearance before any court as required under the conditions hereinafter specified. [17] ). Posting a bail is not as easy as furnishing the bond required for the temporary liberty of the accused. Before an accused may be released after posting bail, the accused must first secure CLEARANCE from: a) Office of the Clerk of Court of the Metropolitan and Regional Trial Court of the place where the accused was detained; and b) from the Warrant Section of the Philippine National Police. If the records of the aforesaid offices reveal that there are other pending cases against the accused who posted bail, he will not be released from jail until the accused posted bail for the other pending cases, it has been determined that the detained should not be held under custody or it will be proved that the detained accused is not the one being referred to by the records. After the clearance has been sought, the said clearance shall be returned to the penal institution where the accused was detained which shall serve as his pass on his way out of the prison cell.

Before the Office of the Clerk of Court of the Metropolitan and Regional Trial Court, cases filed before their office were maintained in a CRIMINAL DOCKET. It is usually a logbook which contains the title of the cases, case number, and the offense charged. In the Warrant Section of the Philippine National Police, the said office usually maintain logbooks wherein the persons subject for arrest ands the court issuing the warrant were written.

What if the records will reveal that a pending case with a pending warrant of arrest with the same name as the accused was found out? What if the alleged pending case was filed twenty or thirty years ago? If such occurrence will happen, the bondsman or the relatives of the accused has to verify the record before the court where the discovered pending case was filed. Unfortunately, when the case was filed way back five (5) years or more, the records of the case is usually piled up in a BODEGA. The records will only be revisited in the event that someone will verify the status of the case. Chances are, due to old age, some of the court documents are no longer readable.

What will be the recourse of the accused? Bondsman or the relatives of the detained, as the case may be, has to wait for several days before the record will be verified. Although every court maintains a CRIMINAL DOCKET, there are instances however that the criminal docket cannot be relied upon and there will be a need to dig the court record; and for this reason, an accused, who had already furnished his bail, will be deprived of his right to liberty until such time that it will be proven that there is no reason for the accused to be detained. Imagine the tedious task before an accused be released from jail just because of incompetent and inaccurate records? There is a need to go from one office to another just to seek clearance and to verify case records in the event that a pending case will be discovered; the accused has to wait for several days before he can be released just because of lack of proper documentation. The holding of the accused is fine if he is really being held for other offense; however, an accused shall be deprived of his liberty after posting bail if he is not the one being referred to by the records of the police authorities and of the court.

On another point of view, a person detained only has to seek clearance within the city or municipality where he is confined. The next question will be what if a detainee was charged for a particular offense in other city, municipality or province? What if the case filed is non-bailable and there is already an alias warrant issued for the arrest of the accused? Once a clearance is secured, the person will be released from jail not knowing that other courts in other city, municipality or province has issued a warrant of his arrest. In this case, an accused has the opportunity to escape for the other case or cases filed against him and the poor aggrieved party has no alternative but to wait until such time that the accused be apprehended.

A.2. Trial

a. Availability of Court Records for Counsel

One of the rights of the accused as provided in the Constitution states that:

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf. However, after arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused provided that he has been duly notified and his failure to appeal is unjustifiable-emphasis supplied. [18]

In relation thereof, the Rules of Court provides that:

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be entitled to the following rights:

(b) To be present and defend in person and by counsel at every stage of the proceedings, from arraignment to promulgation of the judgment. The accused, may however, waive his presence at the trial pursuant to the stipulations set forth in his bail, unless his presence at the trial, pursuant to the stipulations set forth in his bail, unless his presence is specifically ordered by the court for purposes of identification, The absence of the accused without justifiable cause at the trial of which he had notice shall be considered a waiver of his tight to be present thereat. When an accused under custody escapes, he shall be deemed to have waived his right to be present on all subsequent trial dates until custody over him regained. Upon motion, the accused may be allowed to defend himself in person when it sufficiently appears to the court that he can properly protect his rights without the assistance of counsel-emphasis supplied. [19]

At the onset of the trial, during the arraignment, there is a need for an accused to be assisted by a counsel until the termination of the trial, during the promulgation of judgment. In cases where an accused has no counsel, a counsel de officio shall be appointed by court to assist him, in most cases, a Public Attorney shall be appointed by court to assist an accused.

The State, as well as the private complainant shall be represented by a prosecutor in the prosecution of the criminal charge while the defense shall be undertaken by the defense counsel. Records of the case, particularly the transcripts of every proceeding are of the essence for counsels of opposing parties.

On the point of view of the public attorneys, there is a difficulty in maintaining court records due to voluminous cases being handled by them, most especially criminal cases. As of June 2009 there are about 443,177 pending criminal cases nationwide, of which a total of 249,511 cases or about 56.30% are handled by Public Attorneys Office. [20] Aside from the fact that PAO lawyers are handling almost one half (1/2) of the pending cases before our courts, admittedly, the delivery of service by the PAO lawyers are affected by the turn-over of its lawyers to other agencies. While recruitment is high, the turn-over of PAO personnel especially its lawyers is likewise fast due primarily to their search for greener pastures either by engaging in private practice or by transferring to other government agencies such as the National Prosecution Service (NAPROSS), Ombudsman, and the judiciary. [21] It becomes problematic when there has been a turn over of PAO Lawyer, when a new lawyer seats in before a court to handle a trial, he will usually request for a resetting of the case in order for him to gather the records of the case and be acquainted with the facts of each case assigned to him.

Imagine the hassle the lack of proper documentation creates not only to the parties but also to its counsels. The transfer of cases handled from one counsel to another without the proper turnover records will cause delay in the continuation of trial. The said instance both to litigants assisted by public prosecutors and public attorneys. Government counsels are not to be blamed for such occurrence; both public prosecutors and public attorneys are employed by the government to handle the prosecution and the defense of the litigants respectively in court. Government Offices are not like private law firms that can employ a good number of employees that could maintain and update case records, plus the fact that the lawyers belonging to the prosecution and public attorneys handle voluminous number of cases as compared to private counsels.

b. Calendar of Cases Set for Hearing

Another thing to note is the proper setting of the schedule of the setting of the criminal cases for trial. An accused will not bother the delay of the proceedings if he or she enjoys provisional liberty while the case is pending. However, in case of a detention prisoner, every delay in the continuation of his case will prolong his agony in waiting for the verdict of the court as well as his stay in the penal institution where detainee is confined.

The Rules of Court is explicit as to when the case of a detention prisoner must be set:

“(e). When the accused is under preventive detention, his case shall be raffled and its records shall be raffled and its records transmitted to the judge to whom the case was raffled within three (3) days from the filing of the information or complaint. The accused shall be arraigned within ten (10) days from the date of the raffle. The pre trial conference of his case shall be held within ten (10) days from the date of the raffle. The pre-trial conference of his case shall be held within ten (10) days after arraignment-emphasis supplied.” [22]

In relation to the above cited rule, the Supreme Court issued a Circular wherein pertinent portion provides that:

“The attention of this Court was invited by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the Committee of the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Program, Department of Justice, Manila, on the alarming number of detainees/prisoners in the City and Municipal Jails, nationwide, due to low disposition of criminal cases pending in our courts,

In order to minimize delay in resolving cases, all judges are enjoined to act promptly in cases pending in their respective salas, particularly criminal cases involving detention prisoner, pursuant to the mandate of Administrative Circular No. 4, dated September 22, 1988 x x x [23]

Despite the express provision of the Rules and of the Circular issued by the Supreme Court, a good number of detention prisoners that were currently detained at City and Municipal Jails all over the country were being deprived of their right to a speedy disposition of their cases pursuant to Article III, Section 16 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution as some accused had to wait for more that thirty (30) days before they will be brought to court for arraignment; though clogged criminal dockets is one of the reasons for the delayed proceedings, still, cases that needs to be prioritized were not being placed in the primary concern. Some of the detention prisoners were even already eligible to avail parole at the time of the promulgation of the judgment of their case.

One cause of the delay of the proceeding is when the records of a particular case has been overlooked by the person in-charge for the preparation of the calendar of cases. Every year, the criminal dockets of each court increases, chances are, the newly-filed cases were prioritized in the setting of the cases for hearing. Detention prisoners who have no relatives inquire and insist the setting of cases for hearing have no recourse but to wait for the time that their case will be set for hearing. The express mandate of the Rules has been rendered ineffectual due to the absence of the proper facility that will enable court employees to closely monitor the status of each cases filed before every sala of courts. Inventory of cases being prepared by the Clerk of Court and Criminal Dockets are not enough to completely eradicate the problem of prolonged delay in the setting of the cases for hearing. If the Rules will be strictly followed, a case filed against an accused must be dismissed by reason of delay in the administration of justice. The Speedy Trial Act of 1998 provides among others that:

“Section 13. Remedy When Accused is Not Brought to Trial Within the Time Limit.- If an accused is not brought to trial within the time limit required by required by Section 7 of this Act as extended by Section 9, the information shall be dismissed on the motion of the accused. The accused shall have the burden of proof of supporting such motion but the prosecution shall have the burden of going forward with the evidence in connection with the exclusion of time under Section 10 of this Act.

In determining whether to dismiss the case or with or without prejudice, the court shall consider, among other factors, the seriousness of the offense, the facts and circumstances of the case which led to the dismissal and the impact of a reprosecution on the implementation of this Act on the Administration of Justice. Failure of the accused to move dismissal prior to trial or entry of plea of guilty shall constitute a waiver of the right to dismissal under this section-emphasis supplied-emphasis supplied.” [24]

Those who were unaware of the mandate of the Speedy Trial Act were likewise deprived of their right to the speedy disposition of cases just because of the incompetency of court records.

A.3. Procedures after the promulgation of judgment

After the promulgation of the final judgment, a convicted prisoner has the following remedies: file a motion for reconsideration, motion for new trial or an appeal before the judgment becomes final. However, even if a convicted prisoner is already serving his sentence after conviction, there are instances which necessitate the verification of records in the lower courts.

a. Probation

Probation is a disposition under which a defendant, after conviction and sentence, is released subject to conditions imposed by the court and to the supervision of a probation officer. [25] The service of probation can be availed by a convicted prisoner if the sentenced imposed does not exceed six (6) years of imprisonment or a fine. In addition to the sentenced imposed, there are other requirements to which the Probation Law mandates before a convicted prisoner can be eligible for probation.

No person shall be placed on probation except upon prior investigation by the probation officer and a determination by the court that the ends of justice and the best interest of the public as well as that of the defendant will be served thereby. [26] The probation officer shall conduct a thorough investigation on whether an application for probation is qualified to avail the said privilege. The investigation that the officer is supposed to conduct consists of: interview with the applicant, background investigation by conducting a visit to the place of residence of an applicant and by conducting a records check to verify the records of other government offices to see whether there are other criminal cases filed against an applicant.

In conducting a records check, the probation officer sends requests to the following government offices: National Bureau of Investigation, Office of the Prosecutor, Office of the Clerk of Court of Metropolitan Trial Court and Regional Trial Court of the city or municipality where the applicant for probation was convicted.

The problem comes in when the records will reveal that a pending case was filed against a person who bears same name as the applicant. The aforesaid offices merely rely on their docket which contains merely the list of names of convicted prisoners or persons with pending cases or outstanding warrants without the certainty to whose person the records refer to and because of the unreliability of the records, an applicant for probation may be denied of his right to avail the same because of the incompetence of the records at hand.

b. Parole

Parole is the release from imprisonment, but without full restoration of liberty, as parolee is still in the custody of the law although not in confinement. [27] A convicted prisoner can apply for parole after serving the minimum penalty imposed under the provisions of the Indeterminate Sentence Law (Republic Act 4103, as amended). Though availing the benefits of the Indeterminate Sentence Law is not a matter of right as the grant of parole is subject to the evaluation of the Board of Pardons and Parole, the application for parole becomes difficult for convicted prisoners who appears to have pending cases before the lower courts.

The problem in the incompetency and accuracy of court records manifests when a convicted prisoner who has been transferred to the Bureau of Corrections applies for parole.

Pertinent provision of Presidential Decree No, 29 amending provides that:

“ x x x

(b) Persons who by reason of their sentence may be deprived of liberty for not more than three years or are subjected to a fine of not more than one thousand pesos, or are subjected to both penalties; but if a prisoner receives two or more sentences in the aggregate exceeding the period of three years, he shall not be considered a provincial prisoner. The imposition of subsidiary imprisonment shall not be taken into consideration in fixing the status of a prisoner hereunder except when the sentence imposes a fine only. x x x” [28]

An accused who was convicted for an imprisonment more than three (3) years shall be considered as “national prisoners;” in relation thereof, the Supreme Court issued a Circular concerning the transfer of the custody of prisoners wherein it is mandated that:

“x x x

In order to decongest provincial, city and municipal jails and to effect better control and supervision over national prisoners, all trial judges concerned are hereby directed to issue the corresponding mittimuses or commitment orders of national prisoners immediately after their conviction so that they may be remitted or transferred to the Bureau of Corrections in Muntinlupa, Metro Manila.” [29]

Once a convicted prisoner was transferred from provincial, and/or municipal jails, it will be more difficult for an applicant for parole to verify his pending cases appearing on the records of the Bureau of Corrections if there is any. What will happen in this case is that the Board of Pardons and Parole has to make a written communication with the concerned courts or with the Public Attorney’s Office to verify the status of a case, and to request certification, if possible, that the pending case that was found on record is no longer in existence. It will take a matter of weeks or months before the written communication from the Board may receive a response from the government agency concerned. The next question here would be: what if there are no more records available to verify the status of the case? For as long as the pending case that was found on the profile of the applicant for parole cannot be verified as to its status, he cannot qualify as a possible candidate for the grant of parole. Again, the poor convicted prisoner will be deprived of his right to avail such privilege only because of the incompetency of the records of our government agencies.

B. Civil Cases and Special Proceedings

A civil action is one by which a party sues another for the enforcement or protection of a right, or the prevention of a redress or a wrong. [30] On the other hand, a special proceeding is a remedy by which a party seeks to establish a status, a right or a particular fact. [31] A civil action or a special proceeding case is initiated by filing an appropriate initiatory pleading before the proper forum having jurisdiction over the cause of action.

Even though the causes of action in a civil case and in special proceedings do not involve deprivation of liberty as compared to criminal cases, still, incompetency of court records affect the substantial rights of the litigants.

The same with criminal cases, the rights of the litigants are affected in terms of the availability of records despite of the length of time that the case was filed, the easy access of the counsels to transcript and other pertinent court records, and also the priority in setting the cases for hearing.

B.1. Rule against Forum Shopping

One of the practices made by litigants in civil cases as well as special proceedings cases is the filing of complaints and/or petitions involving the same causes of action and parties to different forums to seek favorable judgment. This practice has been subject to abuse that in case of civil cases, defendants, who have no idea as to the course of actions that the plaintiffs are pursuing, might prejudice their right to due process of law.

“The Supreme Court has explained that there is forum shopping when, as a result of an adverse decision in one forum, or in anticipation thereof, a party seeks a favorable opinion in another forum through means other than appeal or certiorari by raising identical causes of action, subject matter and issues. Forum shopping exists when two or more actions involve the same transactions, essential facts and circumstances, and raise identical cause of action, subject-matter and issues. Another indication is when the elements of litis pendentia are present or where a final judgment in one case will amount to res judicata in the other case. The test is whether in the two or more pending cases, there is identity of parties, tights or causes of action and reliefs sought.” [32]

Despite the fact that it is mandatory that every initiatory pleading must be accompanied by a certification against forum shopping, the nature of cases filed before our courts cannot be closely monitored on whether a plaintiff or petitioner has violated the prohibition against forum shopping. Mere inventory of cases are not enough to assure that the rule against forum shopping has not been violated.

III. Conclusion

The situations cited in this work are based on the actual scenario are based on the situations encountered by the writer in her everyday exposure with litigants, prisoners and other government employees involved in the administration of justice. The clogged dockets are the primary reason for the difficulty in making an access to court records plus the fact that the documentation is done manually.

In every cause of action, a right is always being asserted. In either ways, the rights of the litigants and the parties involved in a case are always prejudiced the moment it becomes difficult to gain access to court records or when the court records can no longer be produced. After having discussed the scenarios that usually happen in a judicial proceeding, I came to realize and conclude that the following important rights are violated due to the incompetency in maintaining court records to wit:

a. The right to life, liberty and property without due process of law [33]

b. The right to speedy disposition of cases [34]

IV. Recommendation

With the present advancement in technology, the flaws in maintaining court records cited in this paper may be properly addressed by creating an ELECTRONIC COURT DOCUMENT REPOSITORIES. The proposal to create the same is not a novel issue. Several countries have already earmarked the use and study of maintaining an electronic court documents.

In Arizona, a study was conducted for the use of electronic document management; [35] the Virginia Court now maintains a Circuit Court Records System Search; [36] in Ohio, Hamilton County Probate Court maintains an electronic data base for probate court records; [37] King County District Court in Washington state has archived more than 1.7 million court records using an information infrastructure based on EMC document management products. [38]

Law makers must start considering implementation of a document management system that will enable local courts to have electronic document repositories for easy access and reference of the terminated, archived, and active cases filed in every sala of each courts in the country. Due to the increasing number of criminal, civil and special proceedings cases. Access to court records becomes more and more difficult as one could ever imagine.

A document management system for the maintenance of court records will answer the problem on maintaining the integrity and reliability of court records. A document management system (DMS) is a computer system (or set of computer programs) used to track and store electronic documents and/or images of paper documents. The term has some overlap with the concepts of content management system. [39]

I think the proposal for creating an ELECTRONIC COURT DOCUMENT REPOSITORES will not be difficult if the government will initiate an act to pursue the same. Take for example the database of the National Statistics Office (NSO), wherein the said government agency now maintains an electronic data base of all the birth, marriage and death certificates that were filed before their office. The creation of such will protect the interests of the litigants.

A. Contents of the Electronic Court Document Repositories

The actual court record consists of the complaint, responsive pleadings, if any, the minutes of the hearing, transcript of records, notice of hearings sent to the litigants, orders of the court and other motions filed by the litigants. I will suggest that a data base for the following must be maintained so that the administration of the judicial system will not be impeded by reason of defective court records.

  1. INVENTORY OF CASES- an inventory of all the cases filed before each sala of court must be had containing the case title, case number, date of filing, cause of action and the current status. The inventory must not only comprise the active cases, a separate inventory for terminated cases and archived cases must also maintained to that in cases where there is a need to verify terminated cases, access to the desired information will be easy.
  2. MINUTES OF THE HEARING- maintaining a data base for the minutes of the hearing of every case will aide the counsels, most especially the public prosecutors and the public attorneys in monitoring the status of each cases that they handle. Furthermore, it will aide newly appointed counsels in familiarizing with the cases that they are supposed to handle.
  3. TRANSCRIPT OF RECORDS- transcript of the testimonies of the witnesses made in open court is essential for every counsel in preparing for the trial. The current practice is that, stenographers only print a limited number of copies of the transcripts, so that is why in case of lost, it will be tedious to recover or to reprint the same. Having the transcript backed up in a data base will not create a hassle in case of lost of the transcript or in case of death of the stenographer who made the same.
  4. INVENTORY OF DETENTION PRISONERS with PENDING CASES- penal institutions maintain an inventory of its own as to the names and number of prisoners under their custody. It is humbly submitted, that a nationwide database must be maintained for detention prisoners or convicted prisoners who have pending cases or who are presently serving their sentences. The database must likewise contain the profiles of the prisoners so that it will be easier to verify the identity of every inmate in relation to criminal cases filed in every sala of court. Why is it essential? This is to inform the court having jurisdiction to the accused as to the number of years that a particular accused has been detained. A data base for such will likewise aide in conducting investigation for convicted accused who files an application for parole and probation. Plus, it will be easier for our local courts to monitor on whether the person to whom they have issued a warrant of arrest has been arrested or was detained in a penal institution outside their jurisdiction.

B. BENEFITS

If ever the proposal to maintain an ELECTRONIC COURT DOCUMENT REPOSITORIES will be pursued, the following benefits for the litigants could be had:

  1. A detained prisoner who had already posted bail can be released the soonest possible time due to the accessibility of records for clearance purposes;
  2. Violators of the rule against forum shopping can easily be monitored and the defendants will be relieved from repeated vexatious complaints that are filed against them simultaneously in different forums;
  3. Verification of pertinent pieces of information concerning an accused or a prisoner from one government agency to another will be easier;
  4. Counsels can easily gain access to records of the case that they are handling in case of loss;
  5. Cases that had long been pending can be now closely monitored and will be prioritized in setting the cases for trial.

C. LIMITATIONS

This proposal is not intended to totally replace the usual practice of paper based court records. This proposal is intended to create a back up copy for all court records so that in case of loss or destruction, a back up copy is readily available.

Likewise, an ELECTRONIC DOCUMENT COURT REPOSITIES is not intended to give an open access to all individuals. Maintaining an ELECTRONIC DOCUMENT SYSTEM is intended for the government agencies who are directly involved in the administration of judicial processes. Security measures must be considered in the implementation of this kind of project as to who can access the system. If access will be allowed for all, litigant’s right to privacy will be violated plus the fact that the litigants might be exposed to intriguing, defamatory and libelous acts of others.


Endnotes

[1] 1987 Philippine Constitution, Article III, Section 16.

[2] The 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 1, Section 3(b).

[3] Rules of Court, Rule 110, Section 5.

[4] http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Public_Attorney%27s_Office.

[5] http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Philippine_National_Police.

[6] http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=National_Bureau_of_Investigation.

[7] http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Bureau_of_Jail_Management_and_Penology.

[8] http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Bureau_of_Corrections.

[9] http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Parole_and_Probation_Administration.

[10] The Revised Administrative Code of 1997, Title III, Chapter 7, Section 23 (1).

[11] http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Board_of_Pardons_and_Parole.

[12] Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 112, Section 1 (2000).

[13] Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 112, Section 4 (2000).

[14] Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 112, Section 6(a) (2000).

[15] Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 113, Section 5 (2000).

[16] Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 112, Section 6 (2000).

[17] Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 114, Section 1 (2000).

[18] The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, Article III, Section 14(2).

[19] Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 115, Section 1(b) (2000).

[20] http://www.pao.gov.ph/76/Accomplishment-Report-2009:-Executive-Summary.

[21] Id.,

[22] Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 116, Section 1(e).

[23] Circular No. 56-92, October 1992.

[24] Republic Act 8493, Section 13 (1998).

[25] Probation Law of 1976 (P.D. No. 968, as amended). Section 3 (a).

[26] Probation Law of 1976 (P.D. 968, as amended). Section 5.

[27] Antonio Nachura, Outline Reviewer in Political Law 304 (2009).

[28] Presidential Decree No. 29, Section 2. (1972).

[29] Circular No. 49-92-A, April 20, 1992.

[30] The 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, Section 2 (a).

[31] The 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, Section 2 (b).

[32] Ligon vs. CA, et al., G.R. No. 127683, August 7, 1998; cf. Melo, et. al vs. CA, et al., G.R. No. 123686, November 16, 1999, cited in I Florenz D. Regalado, Remedial Law Compendium 161 (2005).

[33] 1987 Philippine Constitution, Article III, Section 1.

[34] 1987 Philippine Constitution, Article III, Section 16.

[35] Electronic Document Management Systems Study for the Arizona Courts by On Target Technology Consulting, June 9, 2009, available at http://www.supreme.state.az.us/COT/Subcommittees/edms/EDMSExecSumry.pdf.

[36] http://webdev.courts.state.va.us/cgi-bin/p/rms.cgi.

[37] http://www.probatect.org/courtrecords/index.htm.

[38] http://gcn.com/articles/2008/08/12/estorage-keeps-order-in-courts-documents.aspx.

[39] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Document_management_system.

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