Clogged court dockets
Prompted by the heavily clogged dockets of the courts, the lack of magistrates and the seemingly inadequate number of courts to hear and decide the mounting scores of cases remain in the Philippine Judicial System, the Congress passed Republic Act No. 11459 otherwise known as the Judges-at-Large Act of 2019.
RA 11459 amends various portions of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 (BP Blg. 129), which organized the judiciary as we know today.
Qualifications of the Judges-at-Large
Regional Trial Court Judges-at-Large
Under the existing law (BP Bgl. 129), a judge who is appointed to the judiciary is assigned to an existing sala or a courtroom. Under the new law, Congress created one hundred (100) positions for Regional Trial Court judges, who shall have no permanent salas, and may be assigned by the Supreme Court as acting judge to a sala or courtroom where no judge has been appointed, or to assist judges of any Regional Trial Court in the Philippines, as may be required in the speedy dispensation of justice. The newly-appointed Regional Trial Court Judge-at-Large will have the same qualifications and disqualifications as that of existing Regional Trial Court judges, and will be entitled to the same benefits, except for the absence of a permanent courtroom where a judge will normally exercise his or her functions as magistrate.
Municipal Trial Court Judges-at-Large
RA 11459 also amended BP Blg. 129, creating fifty (50) positions for Municipal Trial Judges-at-Large, who will act as magistrates under the same auspices as their counterparts in the Regional Trial Courts.
Since the law was approved by the President only on August 30, 2019, and is slated to take effect fifteen (15) days after its publication in the Official Gazette or any newspaper of general circulation, we have yet to see the law fully implemented and effective. For one, the Supreme Court is yet to release the rules and regulations to implement RA 11459.
Appointment of Judges-at-Large: A Welcome Development to Litigators
Without a doubt, the full implementation of the law will ease the burden of the judiciary, will help unclog the dockets of the courtrooms in the Philippines.
To litigators and litigants, this law is a welcome development. The availability of Judges-at-Large will ensure that they will be able to secure judicial relief, even in the absence of the judge assigned to the case. Also, hearing postponements will (hopefully) be a thing of the past, as there will be Judges-at-Large who will be available to substitute a judge who is either ill, absent or on-leave.
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