Philippine Judges Trained on Using a New Trial Benchbook

Philippine judges trained on using a new trial benchbook.

During the interactive training, participants key in their responses using keypoint.

April 2012

On March 5, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and the Philippines Judicial Academy (PHILJA) held the sixth of a series of trainings to familiarize judges with the revised and expanded edition of the benchbook for trial courts. Held at Fort Ilocandia Resort in Laoag City, the latest training was attended by 75 judges from the northernmost part of the Philippines.

Authored by seasoned practitioners and professors, and published by ABA ROLI and PHILJA, the benchbook explains procedures for each type of trial. The Philippine Supreme Court adopted the benchbook in September 2011. Since its adoption, ABA ROLI and PHILJA have trained 469 judges around the country.

Ruben Corpaz, a municipal trial court judge from the town of Bangur, La Union Province, said that the training was the first time he had used the revised benchbook. He had previously been relying on the original edition for guidance on pre-trial and trial procedure—sometimes to his detriment. “The old book can be misleading,” he said. Imelda Cosalan, a municipal trial court judge from the city of San Fernando, La Union Province, agreed. Cosalan said, “Cases have changed the law, and judges can end up applying the wrong rules.”

One of the most significant additions to the benchbook is the Supreme Court’s 2010 Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases. Under these rules, more than 1,000 trial courts across the country have been designated as ‘green courts’ and tasked with expediting environmental cases. The new benchbook devotes an entire chapter to explaining the rules and compiling environmental cases.

Corpaz said that although his court had been designated as green court, he had yet to decide a case using the environmental rules. “Now that I have the new benchbook, I will get to know the environmental rules,” he said.

The interactive trainings show participants how to find information on rules, case law and proper writing style. They allow participants to use the benchbook as a reference to answer a series of questions, to consider case studies developed by experts from academia and the private sector, and to apply case and court management techniques. Participants said that the training was an excellent educational experience. Corpaz said, “I think it ‘s really effective.”

ABA ROLI and PHILJA will provide similar trainings to judges across Philippines through late May. The benchbook and the trainings are funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

To learn more about our work in the Philippines, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.

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