The Supreme Court has embarked on a five-year reform program aimed at strengthening the rule of law and enhancing the public's trust and confidence in the judiciary.

In his speech to mark the 60th anniversary of the Philippine Constitution Association over the weekend, Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo disclosed that reforms will focus on case decongestion and the establishment of an information and communication technology infrastructure in the judicial system.

Gesmundo said his plans, programs and vision for the next five years include the establishment of a "smart" and technology-driven judiciary.

The decongestion program seeks to expedite the resolution of cases with the amendment of the court's internal rules in compliance with the constitutional mandate of placing a two-year cap for the resolution of cases.

Also amended were the Rules of Civil and Criminal Procedures, emphasizing "the use by the police of body-worn cameras in the implementation of warrants, maintaining the delicate balance between the constitutional rights of persons involved and the efficient operations of law enforcement officers." Gesmundo also stressed the importance of selecting competent judges.

"The majesty of the Court is in the integrity of its magistrates and the wisdom of their decisions — they, ever mindful of the impact these decisions have not only on the parties involved but also on society and the country, in general. The majesty of the Court lies in its devotion to render justice expeditiously, without fear or favor," he said.

Toward this end, the Judicial and Bar Council has required non-judge applicants to undergo and pass the Pre Judicature Program of the Philippine Judicial Academy to determine their readiness and suitability for the position.

The Chief Justice likewise mentioned the creation of the Judicial Integrity Board (JIB), which has the exclusive jurisdiction to investigate judicial misconduct and recommend appropriate sanctions when proper. Composed of retired justices, the JIB assesses and evaluates disciplinary actions and conducts administrative investigations on members of the judiciary.

"But perhaps the most significant of all innovations the Court has introduced is involving our brothers in the legal profession to the solution of the problem," Gesmundo said.

The chief magistrate cited Rule 7, Section 3 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that the lawyer's signature certifies upon the courts that the case is filed not for any improper purpose.

"By incorporating this in our rules, we hope to put a stop to the abhorrent practice by lawyers of giving our people false hopes through the filing of cases, which serve no other purpose but to clog the dockets of our courts," he said.

"By doing so, we also hope to restore the waning trust of our people in the judicial system," he added.

At the same time, Gesmundo said the SC undertook to review and assess the status of the Philippine legal education system, so that the courses being offered in law schools would be responsive to the demands of law practice.

On utilizing technology to respond to the challenges confronting the courts, the chief magistrate expressed his intention to develop and establish an information and communications technology infrastructure for the Philippine judiciary. "I plan to set up an e-Court system to enhance court workflow processes and increase virtual access to the courts. This system hopes to cover the whole process from the filing of complaints to the promulgation and execution of judgments," he said.

Gesmundo highlighted the full use of technology in the judiciary's processes in the coming localized and digitized 2020/2021 Bar Examinations.

"For starters, the Court allows the online submission of Bar Exam applications and the electronic payment of Bar Exam fees. And as to the exam format, there shall be online but proctored bar exams," he said.