Speed and Justice

It has been said that justice delayed is justice denied and oftentimes, this maxim has proven to be true in the Philippine justice system.  However, lawyers are not the only ones who are guilty of delaying tactics, court dockets are often clogged and different legal issues often crop up that need extra time to be decided upon.  Our laws do have safeguards to ensure the prompt and speedy action on all types of  legal actions and cases. 

Section 16, Article III of the 1987 Constitution declares that: 

“All persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies.”

True, indeed, the 1987 Constitution provides the right not only to a speedy trial but also to a speedy judgment after trial.  Hence, the Constitution mandates dispatch not only in the trial stage but also in the disposition thereof, warranting dismissals in case of violations thereof without the fault of the party concerned, not just the accused.  The case of Caballero vs. Alfonso, Jr., laid down the guidelines in determining the applicability of the “speedy disposition” formula:

. . . (S)peedy disposition of cases’ is a relative term. Just like the constitutional guarantee of “speedy trial” accorded an accused in all criminal proceedings, “speedy disposition of cases” is a flexible concept. It is consistent with delays and depends upon the circumstances. What the Constitution prohibits are unreasonable, arbitrary and oppressive delays which render rights nugatory.

As held in Gonzales vs. Sandiganbayan:

. . . (T)he right to a speedy disposition of a case, like the right to speedy trial, is deemed violated only when the proceeding is attended by vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays; or when unjustified postponements of trial are asked for and secured, or when without cause or justifiable motive a long period of time is allowed to elapse without the party having his case tried. Equally applicable is the balancing test used to determine whether a defendant has been denied his right to a speedy trial, or a speedy disposition of a case for that matter, in which the conduct of both the prosecution and the defendant are weighed, and such factors as length of the delay, reason for the delay, reason for the delay, the defendant’s assertion or non-assertion of his right, and prejudice to the defendant resulting from the delay, are considered. 

In addition, Section 1 (h), Rule 115 of  the Revised Rules of Procedure states  that one of the rights of an accused is to have a speedy, impartial and public trial.

A speedy trial is one conducted according to the law of criminal procedure and the rules and regulations, free from vexatious, capricious and oppressive delays. The primordial purpose of this constitutional right is to prevent the oppression of an accused by delaying criminal prosecution for an indefinite period of time.

The right of an accused to speedy trial is not violated by the mere postponement of scheduled hearings of the case. Unjustified postponements which prolong the trial for an unreasonable length of time are what offend the right of the accused to speedy trial. The right to speedy trial allows reasonable continuance so as not to deprive the prosecution its day in court. 

In the determination of whether or not the right to a “speedy trial” has been violated, certain factors may be considered and balanced against each other. These are length of delay, reason for the delay, assertion of the right or failure to assert it, and prejudice caused by the delay. The same factors may also be considered in answering judicial inquiry whether or not a person officially charged with the administration of justice has violated the “speedy disposition of cases” guarantee.