Access to Justice

Lecture delivered by Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban during the inauguration of the Dr. Jovito R. Salonga Center for Law and Development on September 16, 2006, at the Luce Auditorium, Silliman University, Dumaguete City.

I feel privileged to be here today in this great institution of learning to deliver the first inaugural lecture for the Dr. Jovito R. Salonga Center for Law and Development. I must congratulate the College of Law of Silliman University for conceiving of and giving life to this Center which, with Senator Salonga’s inspiration, will surely be in the forefront of this University’s vision and mission of “learning and serving.” By deciding to pioneer in “transformative law”—which means harnessing the law to transform society and to improve the lives of the people—the Center institutionalizes Dr. Salonga’s deep-seated compassion for the poor and the downtrodden. You do him great honor indeed!

Two compelling reasons impelled me to fly from Manila to Dumaguete City this morning and to return this afternoon. First, the venerable Senate President Jovito R. Salonga honored me with a visit at my home three weeks ago and personally invited me to this gathering. To be distinctively chosen by the honoree—who has served as my lifetime mentor [1]—is not just a rare privilege, but also a stringent summon that must be heeded under pain of contempt. Second, I was given blanket authority to choose the topic of my address. Hence, I have opted for one that is very close to my heart and yours, and that embodies the enduring advocacy and legacy of Senator Salonga: access to justice by and for the poor.

UNDP Study on Access to Justice

Allow me to start with a definition of “access to justice.” According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), access to justice is “[t]he ability of people to seek and obtain a remedy through formal or informal institutions of justice, and in conformity with human rights standards.” [2]

Interestingly, the UNDP’s definition of access to justice is both interpretative and contextual. Thus, different peoples of divergent cultures tend to relate it to what they consider to be more relevant to their needs. In a UNDPparticipatory survey on people’s perceptions of justice in India , for instance, slum dwellers prioritized access to justice as it related to economic issues. The marginalized, on the other hand, highlighted the social dimensions of access to justice, while indigenous minorities stressed its political ramifications. [3]

In the Philippines, a survey of private legal practitioners was conducted in 2004 to monitor access to justice by the disadvantaged. The survey, which was undertaken by the Supreme Court with funding from the UNDP through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), reported some disturbing findings as follows:

1. Lawyering for the poor had an urban bias. Being among the “basic sectors” served by lawyers (whether paid or pro bono), urban labor and the urban poor enjoyed more legal representation than did the farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous people, workers in the informal sector, women, children and youth, persons with disabilities, senior citizens, and victims of disasters and calamities. [4] This finding implied that there were very few attorneys who were willing to serve in the rural areas.

2. Courts were also located mostly in urban centers. [5] For the rural poor, the physical inaccessibility of the courts posed difficulties in access to justice. Thus, to avail themselves of legal representation, the rural people had to go to the urban centers.

3. Loss of income appeared to be the strongest deterrent to lawyering for the poor, especially among young and new lawyers. [6] Under the study, attendant risks were among the problems encountered by lawyers, whether or not they were engaged in alternative lawyering. [7] Next to loss of income, the respondents were highly concerned with security risks as well as emotional and psychological distress.

Selective Pro Bono Assistance

4. Most of the pro bono cases involved poor individuals charged with the commission of a crime. Yet, only a few organizations and lawyers were able and willing to provide free and adequate legal assistance. [8]

5. Many pro bono clients were represented by a lawyer only during arraignment. Ideally, access to legal representation should start before a case goes to court. In criminal cases especially, the services of a lawyer are needed —as stated in our Constitution — during custodial investigation and inquest or preliminary investigation. [9]

6. Bail, transcripts and filing fees were the highest cost items of litigation for pro bonoclients. A majority of the lawyers providing free legal assistance reported having handled cases in which they had to shoulder the costs of transcripts and documents, because their clients simply could not afford to pay for them. More often than not, their clients were unable to post bail because they had no money or property. [10]

All told, the survey tells us that the poor and the disadvantaged sectors were not adequately provided with legal services because of a myriad of reasons. Among these were the limited number and physical inaccessibility of courts, judges and lawyers; the unaffordable costs of seeking justice; and the lack of incentives or motivations for rendering free legal assistance for the poor and the marginalized, especially in the rural areas.

Access to Justice and Poverty Reduction

These and other data should reveal the poor’s limited access to justice. But what the data do not show, but is painted right into a limited state of access to justice, is the bleaker picture of widespread poverty and human underdevelopment. The UNDP observes that access to justice is essential to poverty eradication and human development for the following reasons:

“First, groups such as the poor and disadvantaged who suffer from discrimination, also often fall victim to criminal and illegal acts, including human rights violations. x x x.

“Secondly, crime and illegality are likely to have a greater impact on poor and disadvantaged people’s lives, as it is harder for them to seek redress. As a result, they may fall further into poverty. x x x.

“Thirdly, justice mechanisms can be used as tools to overcome deprivation by ensuring x x x access to education by girls and minorities, or by developing jurisprudence on access to food, health, or other economic, cultural or social human rights.

“Lastly, fair and effective justice systems are the best way to reduce the risks associated with violent conflict. x x x.” [11]

In the face of these grim realities, the world’s most important developmental institutions—like the UNDP, the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB)—have learned over the years that their goals of alleviating poverty and propelling economic growth cannot be attained, unless there is “a well-functioning judicial system [that] enables the State to regulate the economy and empower private individuals to contribute to economic development by confidently engaging in business, investments and other transactions.” The focus on access to justice by the UNDP, in particular, is founded on the conviction that “access to justice is a fundamental right, as well as a key means to defend other rights.” [12]

This stance explains why the UNDP is passionate about broadening the poor’s access to justice. It also underlies why the WB wants “an effective and efficient judicial system that protects citizens from the abuses of government and safeguards the rights of the poor”; [13] and why the ADB desires “to enhance the effectiveness and the accountability of the judiciary.” [14]

Access to Justice: An ACID Problem

Realizing the various facets of the problem of limited access to justice, I have seriously considered various options and solutions. Thus, upon assuming the chief justiceship of the Philippines on December 21, 2005, I pledged to revitalize the Supreme Court’s ongoing Action Program for Judicial Reform (APJR), with special focus on what I call 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.

At the same time, I immediately vowed to lead a judiciary characterized by four Ins: independence, integrity, industry and intelligence; one that would be morally courageous to stand its ground against the onslaughts of influence, interference, indifference and insolence; and that is impervious to the plague of “ships”—*kinship, relationship, friendship* and fellowship.

And to cover the whole spectrum of reforms to support access to justice initiatives, I envisioned a similar renaissance in the legal profession. The legal profession should see the emergence of competent and ethical lawyers who would be willing and able to stand for their convictions against all odds; to carry on in spite of seemingly insurmountable opposition; and to be beacons for the weak, the oppressed and the marginalized.

Pro-Poor Bias of the Constitution

In seeking out and implementing means to widen the avenues through which the poor may gain access to justice, the Supreme Court derives inspiration from the mandate of the Constitution. Very clearly, it is pro-poor, pro-labor and pro-human rights. Having arisen from the ashes of an authoritarian regime, it seeks among others to promote social justice, [15] to respect human rights, [16] to give due consideration to the role of women, [17] and to protect the rights of labor. [18] Furthermore, social justice is given high priority in our constitutional hierarchy. [19]

The Constitution spells out in neat detail the rights of persons accused of crimes [20] and assures them of free access to the courts and adequate legal assistance, which “shall not be denied to any person by reason of poverty.” [21] Furthermore, it provides in clear black-and-white provisions the so-called Miranda rights of accused persons. [22] In all criminal prosecutions, due process and the right to “competent and independent counsel” are guaranteed. [23]

Opening up the Justice System to Indigents

To implement these pro-poor constitutional provisions, the Supreme Court has opened the justice system to indigents through various measures. For example, it has exempted poor litigants from the payment of docket and other fees, as well as transcripts of stenographic notes; [24] protected and enforced the constitutional rights of the accused; [25] and granted free legal counsel to poor litigants [26] by requiring lawyers to provide them free legal aid. [27]

Pro bono legal services are provided by several nongovernmental groups, like (a) the Integrated Bar of the Philippines , to which an annual grant to fund its Free Legal Aid Program is given by the Supreme Court; and (b) the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), which focuses on public, rather than private, issues.

Of course, we now have the Dr. Jovito R. Salonga Center and the Legal Counseling Office of the College of Law of Silliman University to provide free legal representation and assistance to the poor. I am informed that, already, the Center is in the process of developing programs on among others, the Katarungang Pambarangay and Alternative Modes of Dispute Resolution; and the teaching of practical law for elementary, high school and college students.

Pro-poor, Pro-labor and Pro-human Rights Decisions

In a long line of decisions, the Supreme Court has been openly and unabashedly pro-poor, pro-labor and pro-human rights.

Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party v. Commission on Elections, [28] for one, held that the Filipino-style party-list system is reserved for the poor and the marginalized. In its Decision, the Court observed thus:

“It is ironic, x x x that the marginalized and underrepresented in our midst are the majority who wallow in poverty, destitution and infirmity. It was for them that the party-list system was enacted — to give them not only genuine hope, but genuine power; to give them the opportunity to be elected and to represent the specific concerns of their constituencies; and simply to give them a direct voice in Congress and in the larger affairs of the State. In its noblest sense, the party-list system truly empowers the masses and ushers a new hope for genuine change. Verily, it invites those marginalized and underrepresented in the past — the farm hands, the fisher folk, the urban poor, even those in the underground movement — to come out and participate, as indeed many of them came out and participated during the last elections. The State cannot now disappoint and frustrate them by disabling and desecrating this social justice vehicle.” [29]

Nowhere is the bias of the Court for the poor clearer than in its labor law decisions. Under its watchful eyes and steady hands thrived and bloomed the seeds sown in 1940 by Calalang v. Williams, [30] which immortalized the definition of “social justice” as follows:

“x x x. Social justice is ‘neither communism, nor despotism, nor atomism, nor anarchy,’ but the humanization of laws and the equalization of social and economic forces by the State so that justice in its rational and objectively secular conception may at least be approximated. Social justice means the promotion of the welfare of all the people, the adoption by the Government of measures calculated to insure economic stability of all the competent elements of society, through the maintenance of a proper economic and social equilibrium in the interrelations of the members of the community, constitutionally, through the adoption of measures legally justifiable, or extra-constitutionally, through the exercise of powers underlying the existence of all governments on the time-honored principle of salus populi est suprema lex. x x x.” [31]

Over the years, the Court has steadfastly ruled that workers may be dismissed from their employment only upon (1) a valid or authorized cause and (2) upon observance of due process. [32] It has likewise ruled that illegally dismissed workers are entitled to reinstatement and full back wages, as well as damages in certain cases. [33] In some cases, [34] even employees dismissed for a just cause have been awarded separation pay on the grounds of equity and social justice. [35]

Strict technical legal requirements have also been disregarded whenever they were used to deny substantial justice to workers. [36] Workers have been further protected from undue influence from their employers, who would otherwise have escaped liability from their obligations. The quitclaims and waivers that they have forced their unsuspecting employees to sign have generally been considered by the Court to be not binding. [37] In one case, it held as follows:

“In labor jurisprudence, it is well-established that quitclaims and/or complete releases executed by the employees do not estop them from pursuing their claims from the unfair labor practice of the employer. The basic reason for this is that such quitclaims and/or complete releases are against public policy and, therefore, null and void. The acceptance of termination pay does not divest a laborer of the right to prosecute his employer for unfair labor practice acts.” [38]

In defense of the people’s fundamental rights, the Supreme Court has been uncompromising in penalizing judges who have failed to inform uneducated accused persons of their right to counsel. [39] It has also annulled lower court judgments whenever the judge failed to conduct a “searching inquiry,” and the accused had waived their right to be heard and pleaded guilty to the charge against them; [40] voided judgments that did not conform to the constitutional standards as to form and substance; [41] and extended the protection of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to everyone, including aliens. [42]

Just recently, the Supreme Court condemned the “[v]exatious, oppressive, unjustified and capricious delays in the arraignment” of the accused. It ruled that his detention for almost two years without arraignment, despite 14 attempts to have himself arraigned violated his constitutional right to speedy trial and speedy case disposition. [43] The ensuing Decision stressed that the Court “safeguards liberty and will therefore always uphold the basic constitutional rights of the people, especially the weak and the marginalized.” For the transgression of his constitutional right to speedy trial, the accused was ordered freed and the criminal indictment against him dismissed.

Access to Justice Projects

Access to justice has received considerable attention in projects and activities of the judiciary. Under UNDPsponsorship, the Court has conducted (1) a diagnostic study of the capabilities and limitations of the Department of Justice; [44] (2) a research on how penal institutions worked; and (3) a participatory program to assess the strengths and weaknesses of our jails. [45]

To these activities I should add the jail decongestion project funded by the UNDP and undertaken by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in the jails of Manila, Pasay, Quezon City and Pasig City. Also worth mentioning are the advances made towards the elimination of gender bias and the equalization of political and civil opportunities for both men and women. [46]

Justice on Wheels

To increase the accessibility of the judicial system, especially to the poor and the disadvantaged, the Supreme Court launched its Justice on Wheels program on December 21, 2004. The first three mobile courts—large buses, each of which is staffed by a judge, a prosecutor, and a stenographer, among others—are designed to bring the courts to places where they would otherwise be inaccessible. As expected, they have already made an impact on our efforts to decongest jails and speedily resolve family problems. [47] On the first-day run of our first mobile court, 40 cases were immediately resolved with the assistance of seven family court judges in Manila. Furthermore, from the Manila Youth Reception Center (MYRC), 26 juveniles in conflict with the law were released.

Filling of Vacant Judgeships

Under the Constitution, the Judicial and Bar Council is tasked to nominate appointees to the bench. In line with its recommendations and the findings of the UNDP study, the Council has intensified the search, screening, and selection of nominees for vacant courts. To complement this JBC effort, the Supreme Court has put in place several measures, including the following:

(1) The doubling of judicial compensation through the enactment of Republic Act (RA) 9227, which authorized a 100 percent increase in the take-home pay of justices and judges over a four-year period from 2003. As of November 6, 2005, the monthly pay has been increased by 75 percent; and by November this year, by the full 100 percent. By that time, the full implementation of the law will have meant a doubling of the judicial compensation.

(2) The immediate filling up of vacancies in the courts. As of May 31, 2006, the Office of the Court Administrator reported a total of 621 judicial vacancies in the trial courts nationwide, which is 28.86 percent of the total 2,152 authorized judicial positions in the trial courts. [48] This figure shows a slight improvement over last year’s figures: 32 percent at the beginning and 29.49 percent at the end. The minimal improvement, despite the pay increase, is due to many factors. Principally, these are (a) the promotion of lower court judges, which shifted the vacancy to the lower judicial levels; and (b) the slow pace of filling up vacancies. Statistics show that, in the past, it took an average of one year and three months to fill up a vacancy.

The bulk of the vacancies are in the first-level courts — especially in rural, far-flung or less urbanized areas; and those with peace and order problems. In the past, after the occurrence of the vacancy, the JBCused to take about three months to announce the opening, and it took longer for the Palace to announce the appointment.

To address this problem, the JBC now announces the occurrence and the acceptance of applications for vacancies even before the compulsory retirements of the incumbents. [49] In this way, the search, screening and selection process can begin even before the vacancy actually happens. Under this new program, the JBC hopes to submit the list of nominees to Malacañang on the very day the vacancy arises. Furthermore, it will make representations with the President to release the appointment within 90 days after the vacancy occurs. In this manner, the time lag should be reduced dramatically, and the vacancy rate reduced by half.

(3) Cognizant of the need to solve the long-festering problem of the 30 percent vacancy rate (at the end of 2005), which in absolute terms involves about 600 judgeships, I have asked the JBC to speed up its three Ss: search, screen and select. Our goal this year is to fill up half of the 30 percent vacancy rate and reduce it to about 15 percent by the end of my term this December. Achieving this goal requires nominating candidates for about 300 vacant courts. At an average of 10 applicants per vacancy, the JBCmust screen, test and interview at least 3,000 candidates — a formidable task indeed. Thus, the JBC is working overtime and extra hard to meet the goal I have set.

(4) The security problem of judges is being addressed by the Court. The newly created Supreme Court Security Committee, headed by Justice Cancio C. Garcia, is fast at work in tackling this menace.

Already, we have received offers of assistance from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to systematize and solve the security problem.

(5) The improvement of working conditions of judges through the construction of more dignified Halls of Justice is underway. The new Hall of Justice of Guagua, Pampanga, has been inaugurated. On the other hand, the City of Manila, which is the capital of the country, will soon have its own Hall of Justice. A few months ago, the Supreme Court was able to take over the old Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) Building on Arroceros Street. It is now being renovated with funding from the World Bank.

Rehabilitating Internally Displaced Persons and Communities

With a grant from the European Union (EU), the Supreme Court has also embarked on “strengthening the courts for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and communities.” This undertaking is a component of the project called “Rehabilitating Internally Displaced Persons and Communities in Southern Philippines.” The mother project seeks to address the rehabilitation and resettlement of at least 10,000 displaced families in Southern Philippines. [50] It also seeks to build and strengthen the capacities of IDPs and communities to promote their basic rights and a culture of peace, as well as to facilitate their easy access to justice, among others.

These initiatives are all aimed at bringing justice closer to the poor; and the poor, closer to justice.

Liberty and Prosperity: Twin Beacons for the Poor

In addition, I have crafted a judicial philosophy founded on the firm belief that justice and progress must be directed primarily to assist the poor, the marginalized and the disadvantaged. For that matter, I believe that the ACIDreforms I mentioned earlier and the four Ins I vowed to pursue for the judiciary must lead to the attainment of two loftier end goals: (1) safeguarding the liberty and (2) nurturing the prosperity of our people. The judiciary can contribute to the advancement of liberty and prosperity by adopting two standards of judicial review, as follows:

1. In litigations involving civil liberties, the scales should weigh heavily against the government and in favor of the people — particularly the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the dispossessed, and the weak. Laws and actions that restrict fundamental rights, like freedom of expression and of the press, come to courts with a heavy presumption against their validity. This policy is commonly referred to as “heightened” or “strict” scrutiny.

2. In conflicts affecting prosperity, development and the economy, deference must be accorded to the political branches of government. This approach is more widely known as the “deferential” interpretation of laws and executive actions.

Just last month, my judicial philosophy was the subject of a national forum participated in by judges, lawyers, members of the business community, the academe, media and civil society. In that forum, specific issues were discussed and concrete measures formulated in line with that philosophy. All these efforts were undertaken to imbue our system of justice with the proper orientation and direction towards the needs and aspirations of the poor and disadvantaged sectors.

A Global Forum on Liberty and Prosperity will follow soon after, on October 18 to 20, 2006, at the Makati Shangri-la Hotel. Invited to this Forum are Chief Justices and justices, lawyers, academics, and representatives of the other branches of government, business and civil society from different countries around the world, as well as local delegates. They represent the various sectors of society which have individual roles to play in safeguarding the liberty of peoples and nurturing their prosperity and, if I may stress, assuring them access to justice.


In closing, allow me to thank Director Mikhail Lee L. Maximo of the Dr. Jovito R. Salonga Center for Law and Development and Dean Myles Nicholas G. Bejar of the College of Law for inviting me here to honor Senate President Jovito R. Salonga—a most beloved mentor and friend, a great statesman, a leader by example, a fearless advocate of truth, and the epitome of moral courage in the midst of these vexing and confusing times.

An eternal optimist, he wrote of his vision of a democratic government for this country in his book, “The Task of Building a Better Nation,” which I quote in part:

“Our primary aim is to rebuild a free, independent, just, democratic and prosperous society in which the inherent dignity of the Filipino is upheld and the basic needs of the broad masses of our people are met.

“We believe in a national community of free men and women where every individual is considered important enough to be respected by all.

“Human dignity, then, is our first article of faith. We recognize the sacred worth and importance of every human being, without distinction as to origin, social class, sex, or belief, and his valid claim to be free from fear, violence, poverty, ignorance, disease, exploitation, and from any oppressive or dehumanizing power.”

To these exaltations of liberty, justice, dignity and prosperity by our beloved honoree, we all say “Amen.”

Maraming salamat po.


Lecture delivered by Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban during the inauguration of the Dr. Jovito R. Salonga Center for Law and Development on September 16, 2006, at the Luce Auditorium, Silliman University, Dumaguete City.

[1] In my book Judicial Renaissance (2005, p. 168), I summed up Dr. Salonga’s foremost teaching in one sentence: “While it is desirable to have some of the necessities that money can buy—like adequate food on the table, sufficient clothing, sports and recreations for the body, and even a car and a house for the family—we should never ever forget that it is far more important to aspire even more ardently for the things that money cannot buy, like excellence, ethics, honor, character and a reverential regard and love for God as the source of all that is good and beautiful.”

[2] A Practitioner’s Guide to a Human Rights-Based Approach to Access to Justice (2005), p. 5.

[3] Id. at 4.

[4] A Survey of Private Legal Practitioners to Monitor Access to Justice by the Disadvantaged (2004), p. 33.

[5] Id. at 22.

[6] Id. at 31.

[7] Alternative lawyers are those rendering free legal aid, developmental legal assistance or similar public interest advocacy.

[8] Id. at 27 and 32-34. At present, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) are the leading organizations/institutions rendering free legal aid, especially in the provinces.

[9] Id. at 36-37. In addition, it was reported that the lawyer in pro bono cases often talked with the client only during the hearing itself, especially when the client was under detention. This fact apparently affected the quality of legal services provided and contributed to delay in the trial, as lawyers—pleading more time to study their cases—are wont to ask for postponements.

[10] Id. at 37-38.

[11] A Practitioner’s Guide to a Human Rights-Based Approach to Access to Justice (2005), supra.

[12] Id. at 3.

[13] Legal and Judicial Sector Manual (2002), a World Bank publication.

[14] Law and Policy Reform, ADB Report, January 2005, pp. 26-28.

[15] CONSTITUTION, Art. II, Secs. 9 & 10:

“Sec. 9. The State shall promote a just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through policies that provide adequate social services, promote full employment, a rising standard of living, and an improved quality of life for all.

“Sec. 10. The State shall promote social justice in all phases of national development.”

[16] Id., Sec. 11:

“Sec. 11.The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.”

[17] Id., Sec. 14:

“Sec. 14.The State recognizes the role of women in nation-building, and shall ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men.

[18] The Constitution, Article II, is replete with state policies favoring labor. These include:

“Sec. 9. The State shall promote a just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through policies that provide adequate social services, promote full employment, a rising standard of living, and an improved quality of life for all.”

“Sec. 10. The State shall promote social justice in all phases of national development.”

“Sec. 18. The State affirms labor as a primary social economic force. It shall protect the rights of workers and promote their welfare.”

Section 3 of Article XIII (on Social Justice) likewise provides:

“Sec. 3. The State shall afford full protection to labor, local and overseas, organized and unorganized, and promote full employment and equality of opportunities for all.

“It shall guarantee the rights of all workers to self-organization, collective bargaining and negotiations, and peaceful concerted activities, including the right to strike in accordance with law. They shall be entitled to security of tenure, humane conditions of work, and a living wage. They shall also participate in policy and decision-making processes affecting their rights and benefits as may be provided by law.

“The State shall promote the principle of shared responsibility between workers and employers and the preferential use of voluntary modes of settling disputes, including conciliation, and shall enforce their mutual compliance therewith to foster industrial peace.

“The State shall regulate the relations between workers and employers, recognizing the right of labor to its just share in the fruits of production and the right of enterprises to reasonable returns on investments, and to expansion and growth.”

[19] Selected sections of Article XIII are hereunder reproduced:

“Sec. 1. The Congress shall give highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity, reduce social, economic, and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequities by equitably diffusing wealth and political power for the common good.

“To this end, the State shall regulate the acquisition, ownership, use and disposition of property and its increments.”

“Sec. 2. The promotion of social justice shall include the commitment to create economic opportunities based on freedom of initiative and self-reliance.

“Sec. 3. (supra)

“Sec. 4. The Sate shall, by law, undertake an agrarian reform program founded on the right of farmers and regular farmworkers, who are landless, to own directly or collectively the lands they till or, in the case of other farmworkers, to receive a just share of the fruits thereof. xxx

“Sec. 9. The State shall, by law, and for the common good, undertake, in cooperation with the public sector, a continuing program of urban land reform and housing which will make available at affordable cost decent housing and basic services to underprivileged and homeless citizens in urban centers and resettlement areas. It shall also promote adequate employment opportunities to such citizens. In the implementation of such program the State shall respect the rights of small property owners.

“Sec. 10. Urban or rural poor dwellers shall not be evicted nor their dwellings demolished, except in accordance with law and in a just and humane manner.

No resettlement of urban and rural dwellers shall be undertaken without adequate consultation with them and the communities where they are to be relocated.

“Sec. 12. The State shall establish and maintain an effective food and drug regulatory system and undertake appropriate health manpower development and research, responsive to the country’s health needs and problems.

“Sec. 14. The State shall protect working women by providing safe and healthful working conditions, taking into account their maternal functions, and such facilities and opportunities that will enhance their welfare and enable them to realize their full potential in the service of the nation.

“Sec. 17. (1) There is hereby created an independent office called Commission on Human Rights. xxx xxx xxx

“Sec. 18. The Commission on Human Rights shall have the following powers and functions: xxx xxx xxx

(3) Provide appropriate legal measures for the protection of human rights of all persons within the Philippines , as well as Filipinos residing abroad, and provide for preventive measures and legal aid services to the underprivileged whose human rights have been violated or need protection; xxx xxx xxx”

[20] Id., Art. III, Sec. 14:

“Sec. 14. (1) No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.

(2) In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, 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 appear is unjustifiable.”

[21] Id., Sec. 11.

[22] Id., Sec. 12:

“Sec. 12. 1) Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice. If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of counsel.

(2) No torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means which vitiate the free will shall be used against him. Secret detention places, solitary, incommunicado, or other similar forms of detention are prohibited.

(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or Section 17 hereof shall be inadmissible in evidence against him.”

[23] Id., Sec.16:

“Sec. 16. All persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies.”

[24] Rules of Court, Rule 3, Sec. 21 and AM No. 04-2-04-SC.

[25] Id., Rules 112-127.

[26] Id., Rule 116, Sec. 7 and Rule 122, Sec. 13. The Court also appoints the Public Attorney’s Office to represent the poor in all relevant litigations.

[27] The Code of Professional Responsibility, Canon 2, states:

“Canon 2 : A lawyer shall make his legal services available in an efficient and convenient manner compatible with the independence, integrity and effectiveness of the profession.

“Rule 2.01 A lawyer shall not reject, except for valid reasons, the cause of the defenseless or the oppressed.

“Rule 2.02 In such a case, even if the lawyer does not accept a case, he shall not refuse to render legal advice to the person concerned if only to the extent necessary to safeguard the latter’s rights.”

The same Code, Canon 14, states:

“Canon 14 : A lawyer shall not refuse his services to the needy.

“Rule 14.01 A lawyer shall not decline to represent a person solely on account of the latter’s race, sex, creed or status of life, or because of his own opinion regarding the guilt of said person.

“Rule 14.02 A lawyer shall not decline, except for serious and sufficient cause, an appointment as counsel de oficioor as amicus curiae or a request from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines or any of its chapters for rendition of free legal aid.

“Rule 14.03 A lawyer may not refuse to accept representation of an indigent client unless:

a) he is not in a position to carry out the work effectively or competently; or

b) he labors under a conflict of interest between him and the prospective client, or between a present client and the prospective client.

“Rule 14.04 A lawyer who accepts the cause of a person unable to pay his professional Fees shall observe the same standard of conduct governing his relations with paying clients.”

[28] 412 Phil. 308, June 26, 2001, per Panganiban, J. (now CJ).

[29] Id. at 446-337.

[30] 70 Phil. 726, December 2, 1940, per Laurel, J.

[31] Id. at 734-735.

[32] Bolinao Security and Investigation Servince, Inc. v. Toston, 421 SCRA 406, January 29, 2004; Mendoza v. NLRC, 369 Phil. 1113, July 20, 1999; Pascua v. NLRC, 351 Phil. 48, March 13, 1998; and Pacific Maritime Services, Inc. v. Ranay, 341 Phil. 716, July 21, 1997.

[33] Paguio Transport Corporation v. NLRC, 356 Phil. 158, August 28, 1998; Mabuhay Development Industries v. NLRC, 351 Phil. 227, March 25, 1998; Magcalas v. NLRC, 336 Phil. 433, March 13, 1997; and AHS/Philippines, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 327 Phil. 129, June 14, 1996.

[34] Separation pay may be granted except when the workers have been dismissed for serious misconduct or for some other cause reflecting on their moral character.

[35] This rule was laid down by the Court en banc in Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. v. NLRC, 164 SCRA 671, August 23, 1988. See also Gabuay v. Oversea Paper Supply, Inc., 436 SCRA 514, August 13, 2004; Philippine National Construction Corporation v. NLRC, 366 Phil. 678, May 18, 1999; United South Dockhandlers, Inc. v. NLRC, 335 Phil. 76, February 3, 1997; and Del Castillo, Jr. v. NLRC, 176 SCRA 229, August 10, 1989.

[36] Tanjuan v. Philippine Postal Savings Bank, Inc., 414 Phil. 168, September 16, 2003; Philimare Shipping & Equipment Supply, Inc. v. NLRC, 378 Phil. 131, December 23, 1999; Samar II Electric Cooperative Inc. v. NLRC, 337 Phil. 24, March 21, 1997; Aurora Land Projects Corp. v. NLRC, 334 Phil. 44, January 2, 1997; The New Valley Times Press v. NLRC, 211 SCRA 509, July 15, 1992.

[37] Emco Plywood Corp. v. Abelgas, 427 SCRA 496, April 14, 2004; Anino v. NLRC, 352 Phil. 1098; Alcosero v. NLRC, 351 Phil. 368, March 26, 1998; Agoy v. NLRC, 322 Phil. 636, January 30, 1996; Cariño v. ACCFA, 124 Phil. 782, September 29, 1966.

[38] AFP Mutual Benefit Association, Inc. v. AFP-MBAI-EU, 97 SCRA 715, 729-730, May 17, 1980, per Guerrero, J.

[39] Gamas v. Oco, 425 SCRA 588, March 17, 2004.

[40] People v. Besonia, 422 SCRA 210, February 5, 2004; People v. Bodoso, 446 Phil. 838, March 5, 2003; People v. Aranzado, 418 Phil. 125, September 24, 2001; People v. Durango, 386 Phil. 202, April 5, 2000; People v. Nadera Jr., 381 Phil. 484, February 2, 2000; People v. Abapo, 385 Phil. 1175, March 31, 2000; People v. Tizon, 375 Phil. 1096, October 28, 1999; andPeople v. Bello, 375 Phil. 277, October 13, 1999. The Court stressed that the accused must be properly accorded their fundamental right to be informed of the precise nature of the accusation against them and of the consequences of pleading guilty thereto, which is an integral aspect of the due process clause under the Constitution.

[41] Velarde v. Social Justice Society, 428 SCRA 283, April 28, 2004; People v. Ferrer, 454 Phil. 86, July 18, 2003; Yao v. Court of Appeals, 398 Phil. 86, October 24, 2000; People v. Dumaguing, 395 Phil. 93, September 20, 2000; Madrid v. Court of Appeals, 388 Phil 366, May 31, 2000; People v. Bugarin, 339 Phil. 570, June 13, 1997. The Constitution, Art. VIII, Sec. 14, states that “[no] decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based.”

[42] Domingo v. Scheer, 421 SCRA 468, January 29, 2004.

[43] John Joseph Lumanlaw v. Eduardo B. Peralta, GR No. 164963, February 13, 2006.

[44] The project, called “Strengthening the Other Pillars of Justice Through the Department of Justice,” was undertaken by the DOJ as the implementing agency. Area-specific reviews and baseline data gathered through the study paved the way for the thorough assessment of the DOJ’s functions, programs and overall capacities and performance. [PMO Annual Report (2004), p. vii]

[45] Otherwise known as the “Raymund Narag Study,” the research sought to determine how the penal institutions worked in the Quezon City Jail; as well as the strengths and weaknesses, and capabilities and limitations, of the penal institutions. Narag was himself a detainee for seven years in the Quezon City Jail (id., Chapter 2, p. 22). The final study was launched on May 10, 2005; 468 copies were distributed to various stakeholders.

[46] The Court has adopted the Strategic Gender and Development Mainstreaming Plan, which was formulated by the SC Committee on Gender Responsiveness in the Judiciary.

[47] Id. at vii.

[48] The latest data on the existing vacancies are as follows:

Vacancy Rate of Judges in the
First and Second Level Courts
as of May 31, 2006


Total Judicial Positions

Total Incumbent Judges

Total Vacancies

Vacancy Rate

Regional Trial Court





Metropolitan Trial Court





Municipal Trial Court in Cities





Municipal Trial Court





Municipal Circuit Trial Court





Shari’a District Court





Shari’a Circuit Court










[49] This change has already started to be implemented through newspaper advertisements, which came out in the February 10, 2006, issues of Manila Bulletin and the Philippine Star.

[50] PMO Annual Report, supra at viii.

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