Philippines pushes to clear massive court backlog

Philippines pushes to clear massive court backlog
The Philippines is overhauling its notoriously slow judicial system to speed up the resolution of cases from years to mere days, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said Thursday.

MANILA - The Philippines is overhauling its notoriously slow judicial system to speed up the resolution of cases from years to mere days, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said Thursday.

Sereno said she would hire more trial court judges, hasten legal procedures and press authorities to enforce court rulings to clear a backlog that burdens judges with as many as 4,000 cases at a time.

"We want to say that in the Philippines, it's no longer justice delayed and therefore justice denied," Sereno, 54, told foreign correspondents.

"We want people to experience justice in real time, justice on time," said Sereno, the country's first female chief justice and youngest to be named to the post.

Twenty-seven courts in the capital are pilot-testing a system in which "small" cases such as drug peddling are decided in four days, she said.

Some of the reforms are as simple as hearing cases more often and printing and releasing rulings on the same day to avoid delays that result in cases dragging for years, even decades, she added.

The Philippine justice system has long been notorious for its slow pace with even simple cases dragging on for years.

This has taken its toll on the trial for the country's worst political massacre, the murder of 58 people in November 2009.

Sereno said the case, which grabbed international attention and became a symbol of the impunity that critics say powerful figures enjoy in the Philippines, might not be decided before President Benigno Aquino steps down in mid-2016.

"With the way things are going, I don't think anyone can make this kind of promise," Sereno said.

The court has yet to start the main trial of the accused - members of a powerful political clan who allegedly carried out the killing to prevent a rival from standing against one of their candidates.

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