Only 12% of drug-related court cases resolved as of 2017 – judiciary report

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Manila, Philippines – The country’s courts have resolved only 12 percent of the almost 300,000 pending drug-related cases inundating their dockets as of last year, data from the judiciary shows.

Of 293,349 such cases pending before the Supreme Court (SC), the Court of Appeals (CA) and local courts, judges and justices resolved 35,787 as of December 31, 2017, according to figures from the latest Judiciary Annual Report.

At the lower court level, where almost 99 percent of drug-related cases were filed, judges were able to decide 34,683 of 289,316 pending cases as of the same date, the report shows.

This translates to a disposition rate of 12 percent, lower than the rates of the three SC divisions and the CA, which receive a significantly lower number of cases than the local tribunals.

At no level of the Philippine judiciary, however, were drug-related cases reduced by half, or even 30 percent, in the last year.

The judiciary-wide annual report, released last Friday, does not show when the count started for the balance of pending cases as of December 31, 2016, nor how many of the resolved cases were newly-filed.

The offenses charged were also not divulged.

Supreme Court

Combining the work of its three divisions, the SC was able to resolve 22 percent of all pending drug-related cases before its docket as of December 31, 2017.

The justices were able to dispose of 206 of 928 cases, 439 of which were newly-filed.

The First Division welcomed 2018 with the best 2017 drug-related case disposition rate. Of 301 cases—131 of which were new—it was able to resolve 86, resulting in a disposition rate of 29 percent.

The Second Division, saddled with the least amount of drug-related cases among SC divisions, resolved 53 cases—or 20 percent—of its total case input of 269, 163 of which were newly-filed.

Entering 2017 with the most number of drug-related cases and exiting it still swamped with the most, the Third Division was able to dispose of 67 out of its input of 358 cases. Of the total case input, 145 were new.

At the level of the full court, the report mentions three decisions made by the SC en banc: the dismissal of Senator Leila de Lima’s petition questioning her arrest and detention; the striking down as unconstitutional of the prohibition of plea bargaining in all drug cases; and the ruling that all detainees whose pending cases have gone beyond the period for preliminary investigations or have been dismissed during the same stage or on inquest are entitled to be released.

Court of Appeals

Meanwhile, the appeals court received 1,673 new drug-related cases in 2017. When combined with the number of pending cases as of 2016, its total case input was 3,105.

Of this number, the CA—across its stations in the National Capital Judicial Region (NCJR), Luzon, Cebu, and Cagayan de Oro—resolved 898 cases, resulting in a disposition rate of 29 percent.

It was the NCJR and Luzon stations that had the most number of such cases entering 2017 and were still left with the most at the end of the year. Their disposition rate was 29 percent, closely followed by their Cebu and Cagayan de Oro counterparts with 28 percent each.

Lower courts

Regional, metropolitan and municipal trial courts entered 2017 with a drug-related caseload of 204,805.

Before the year ended, 83,405 new ones were filed and 1,106 were revived or reopened, making for a total case input of 289,316. Of this number, the courts resolved 34,683, or 12 percent.

A huge bulk of the cases was lodged before the Regional Trial Courts (RTC). Last year, all but 21 of drug-related cases filed with lower courts went to the RTCs.

The Judiciary Annual Report 2017 contains information on the judiciary’s operations and activities for the pat year. It covers adjudication  reports, statistics on decisions and justices’ opinions, administrative actions against judiciary members, court personnel and lawyers, among others.

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