MANILA, January 4, 2010 – The World Bank and the Supreme Court today inaugurated three new buses converted into courtrooms and mediation centers to augment the Supreme Court’s Justice on Wheels project. Costing PHP 2 million each, the new buses will bring to six the Supreme Court’s mobile courts that have brought courtrooms to municipalities without regular courts, to detention facilities and youth reception centers, and people who live too far from the nearest courthouse.
The Justice on Wheels project was launched by the Supreme Court in 2004 as part of its Judicial Reform Support Project (JRSP) designed to support the development of a more effective and accessible judicial system in the Philippines. Supported by the World Bank, JRSP includes sub-projects such as Pilot Model Courts, an e-Library, a Case Flow Management System and the converted buses that bring Justice on Wheels and other services to communities.
Patterned after a Guatemalan model, the mobile court was established to literally bring justice closer to the poor by providing fast and free resolution of conflicts on site through conciliation, mediation or adjudication.
Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who has actively promoted the use of the buses, says, “We bring the Justice on Wheels mobile courts to areas that are in need of adequate and inexpensive access to justice. With more Justice on Wheels buses, it is possible to bring fast justice that goes direct to a larger number of people.”
World Bank Country Director Bert Hofman said the World Bank is honored to be part of the Supreme Court’s efforts to bring justice to every Filipino, especially those who have less access to the courts due to poverty and distance. Justice on Wheels and the JRSP as a whole, he explained, is consistent with the Bank’s goal of inclusive growth in the Philippines. “Enhancing judicial performance directly supports this goal by improving governance and expanding access to justice for the poor,” said Mr. Hofman.
As of the end of 2009, Justice on Wheels has caused the release of 2,513 inmates, settled 5,361 cases through mediation, and provided free legal aid to 1,103 detainees. Some 6,883 inmates were provided free medical and dental assistance, while 11,900 barangay officials have been oriented on the Court's EJOW and other judicial reform programs and Court rules enhancing human rights.
Thus far, the first three mobile courts stationed in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao have been brought to areas in Metro Manila, Rizal, Bulacan, Cebu, Aklan, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Sarangani and other provinces where judges and mediators have helped decongest courtrooms with heavy case loads. The mobile courts have also visited the Manila City Jail and other detention centers to hear and resolve cases as quickly as possible.
The first three mobile courts have been augmented by donations of two customized container vans that have been converted into courtrooms and mediation rooms from the City of Manila and the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. to hear cases at the Manila City Jail. The province of Sarangani has built its own mobile court which it donated to the Supreme Court to be used in the area for the same purpose.
Adds Mr. Hofman, “We are very encouraged by the results of the JOW Program and we have assured the Supreme Court that we will support an expansion of the Program.”