Philippines - Rule of Law Program

Enhancing court efficiency, transparency and accountability

The Judicial Strengthening to Improve Court Effectiveness (JUSTICE) program, a five-year initiative funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, builds upon ABA ROLI’s previous success in fostering good governance and economic development and continues our longstanding collaboration with the Philippine judiciary. Since JUSTICE began in 2012, ABA ROLI has worked with all levels of the judiciary to design a court automation system which replaces manual court processes to boost efficiency, accountability, and transparency in some of the most burdened court systems in the country. Implementation involves the installation of network infrastructure, equipment, and software, but also extensive training and guidance on use of the system and on newly reformed court processes and procedures. When the JUSTICE program ends in December 2018, the Philippine Supreme court will continue to implement eCourt in courthouses throughout the country.

ABA ROLI is working with the Philippine Supreme Court on activities aimed at improving the transparency and accountability of the courts. eRaffle — eCourt’s case-raffling function — assures impartial and equitable distribution of cases by automatically randomizing and assigning incoming cases to judges; case files are then electronically transferred to judges over the eCourt platform, removing opportunities for error and tampering. Automated hearings, another eCourt function, allows judges to print and serve orders directly from the bench, in the presence of both parties; this function reduces corruption by removing an opportunity for parties to illegally influence judges out of court. ABA ROLI is also installing public-access kiosks in the lobby of each eCourt-enabled courthouse, allowing litigants to look up basic case information sourced directly from the eCourt platform and empowering them to hold their lawyers and the courts accountable.

Protecting intellectual property rights

Although enforcement of intellectual property laws in the Philippines remains a work in progress, recent headway has kept the country off the U.S. Trade Representative’s Watch List since 2014. By working with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, and the Philippine Judicial Academy, ABA ROLI helped to train judicial sector personnel on the new rules on intellectual property rights. ABA ROLI is also producing an updated manual for intellectual property rights judges and practitioners, and is working to leverage the eCourt system to collect data about intellectual property cases. By collecting such data, authorities can identify serial IPR violators and prioritize the prosecution of high-impact cases.  

Improving financial rehabilitation and insolvency law

Since 2012, ABA ROLI has worked to promote implementation of the Financial Rehabilitation and Insolvency Act (FRIA) in collaboration with the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA) and the Philippine Supreme Court Committee for Special Commercial Courts. The act was intended to enforce the policy goal of encouraging debtors and their creditors to collectively and realistically resolve competing claims and property rights. To build the capacity of Special Commercial Court judges to handle this new and complex area of Philippines law, ABA ROLI works with PHILJA to train judges and other justice sector officials on FRIA, its rules and relevant jurisprudence. To complement these trainings, ABA ROLI is developing a judges’ handbook on the act and the newly promulgated rules on financial liquidation and insolvency.

Notable accomplishments

  • eCourt implementation in Quezon City, Angeles City, Lapu-Lapu City, Tacloban City, Davao City, Cebu City, Mandaluyong City, and Pasig City, with Manila soon to follow.
  • In Fiscal Year 2017 alone, ABA ROLI trained and mentored over a thousand judges and court personnel on the use of eCourt.
  • To date ABA ROLI has trained 427 judges, court personnel and attorneys on intellectual property rights (IPR) law and Jurisprudence.
  • In 2014 and 2015, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines recognized ABA ROLI as an Intellectual Property Champion of the Philippines for its role in improving IPR in the Philippines.
  • To date, financial rehabilitation trainings have reached 428 Special Commercial Court judges, Court of Appeals justices, and court attorneys.
  • From 2016-2017, ABA ROLI developed a new prosecutor training curriculum and trained 67 prosecutors to serve as regional prosecutor-trainers under the Philippine Department of Justice Prosecutor Development Project.