Chief Justice presses justice for the poor

Sep. 22, 2008

Davao City-Supreme Court chief justice Reynato Puno challenged the members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) to increase access to justice for the poor, to help achieve equality and remove barriers to the justice system.

Puno was on hand at the inauguration of the IBP building of the Davao del Norte-Compostela Valley (DN-ComVal) chapter in the government center in Mankilam, Tagum City on September 5, 2008.

Saying that the poor deserves genuine social justice and not just crumbs and rhetoric, Puno urged the members of the bar to work together as an institution to raise the social awareness of the stakeholders of the justice system and the legal awareness of the poor. “Indeed, if justice is allowed to be biased, it should be biased in favor of the poor.”

DN governor Rodolfo del Rosario, who facilitated the donation of the lot and the initial funding for the building, cited the project as a symbol of the commitment of the people of Davao del Norte to the rule of law and to the institutionalization of the IBP Free Legal Aid and Free Legal Education Program to the poor and the underprivileged.

Puno also lauded the IBP-DN-ComVal chapter for dedicating their new building to the rule of law and the promotion of the welfare of the poor.

The chief justice expressed optimism that the seemingly insurmountable sea of poverty would be overcome as long as there are public officials, citizens and groups who continue to fight for the rule of law. “I congratulate all of you for continuing to banner the rule of law amidst times when we see its erosion, which is especially caused by our continuing incapability to protect the socio-economic rights of the underprivileged from their exploitation by the over-privilege,” Puno said.

“We need not lose hope for the fight for the rule of law has only one ending. And that ending is victory for the people, victory for the right and victory for righteousness,” he added.

The chief magistrate also launched the justice on wheels (JOW) at the provincial jail, conducting a dialogue with DN barangay officials that would facilitate information dissemination.

The Supreme Court launched the JOW program last month to increase access to justice by the poor. The program aims to address the difficulties under the justice system that limits the poor from seeking redress from the courts. “We are bringing the Justice on Wheels to areas that are in need of adequate and inexpensive access to justice,” Puno said.

The chief justice said the program has already mediated 1,457 cases from January to June 2008. 1,329 or 85 percent of these cases were successfully resolved.

Puno also emphasized the crucial role of the barangay officials in issuing barangay protective order (BPO) under the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004, which safeguards the victim from further harm and minimizes any further disruption in the victims’ lives, as well as the system of diversion under the Juvenile Justice And Welfare Act of 2006.

“The exercise of this power on the part of the barangay officials have a huge affect on the welfare of our women and their children and will also significantly impact in the declogging our court dockets,” he said.

He underscored the barangay officials need to be educated on their powers and responsibilities as the success of the law on violence against women depends to a large extent on how well they will discharge their quasi-judicial functions. (PGO-ID/PIA XI)

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