MANILA — Chief Justice (CJ) Maria Lourdes Sereno said Thursday reforms in the Supreme Court (SC) would lead to the efficient and quick resolution of cases involving illicit drugs.
During the “CJ Meets the Press” held in Intramuros, Manila, Sereno reported that the Supreme Court added 240 more courts to existing drug courts, pushing the total to 955 drug courts.
She also noted that the SC has been implementing the e-Subpoena system in 58 courts in Quezon City and 14 courts in Lapu-Lapu City and Angeles City, which pushed the attendance rate of police witnesses to 97 percent this year, compared to 77 percent last year.
Under the e-Subpoena system, police witnesses receive subpoenas to appear in court through e-mails, instead of the snail mail.
Sereno expressed hope that the e-Subpoena system would be implemented across the country by year’s end.
The Chief Justice acknowledged that many drug cases are delayed or dismissed in courts due to the lack of government lawyers and the non-appearance of witnesses.
“Many drugs cases are delayed or dismissed by the following reasons — the absence of police witnesses, the dearth of public prosecutors and public attorneys and the weak evidence of the prosecution in relation to the rules on chain of custody and inventory of seized drugs and paraphernalia,” she noted.
She said that there has been an influx of drug cases filed in courts.
“As of May 2016, 128,368 drugs cases (were) pending before the lower courts, more than 25 percent of the 439,606 total pending cases in trial courts,” she reported.
Sereno said that the SC has already shared this observation with the Department of Justice (DOJ), the National Prosecution Service, the Public Attorneys Offices, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
She explained that for a continuous trial to succeed, there should be two prosecutors and two public attorneys for every judge.
Sereno has already learned from Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II that the DOJ has vacancies for about 500 prosecutors and may have to hire 2,000 more. Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/PNA/northboundasia.com