CJ Puno’s access-to-justice crusade: Closing the gap between poor and justice

Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno’s crusade for the poor and underpriviledged’s access to justice has gradually paying off. My organization has participated in the National Forum on Access to Justice in June 2008. I have also read some of his writeups in relation to access to justice by the poor. And who will not admire the man that exudes courage and determination to create a moral-force movement as a response to the ailing political system that the country is under.

As a result of the Access-to-Justice forum, the Supreme Court launched the Small Claims Court in October 2008 by virtue of the En Banc Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases. With this rule and the court’s launching, Puno hoped to “shorten the distance between ourcj dream  of justice for the poor and the cruel reality on the ground.”

Not only that. The SC has just come up with another rule, this time concerning requiring practicing lawyers to each render 60 hours per year of free legal aid to indigent litigants (that is, poor individuals involved in legal cases). Cases covered are “those actions, disputes, and controversies that are criminal, civil, and administrative in nature in whatever stage wherein indigent and pauper litigants need legal representation.” Free legal aid services refer to appearance in court or quasi-judicial body for and in behalf of an indigent or pauper litigant and the preparation of pleadings or motions.

The rule thus resolves the problem of shallow bench of lawyers to support the poor litigants. It means more and more free lawyers in the employ of government quasi-judicial agencies such as National Labor Relations Commission and the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB). It means more number of cases resolved in less time, or agrarian justice in action for farmers.

The rule takes effect on July 1. So civil society groups must included this in their respective advocacy agenda.

Here’s looking forward to more concrete actions from the man of the hour. Reforms in small doses do result in lasting healing of the society’s illnesses.

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