Second Quarter 2010
STRENGTHENING ADR THROUGH JUDICIAL DISPUTE RESOLUTION (JDR)
For this issue, I have invited Atty. Brenda Jay Angeles Mendoza, the Consultant recommended to PHILJA by the Canadian International Development Authority (CIDA), to guest my regular column, to write on JDR. Here is her article:
Not too long ago, the Supreme Court of the Philippines, through the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA), partnered with the Canadian International Development Authority (CIDA) and the National Judicial Institute (NJI) in implementing the Justice Reform Initiatives Support (JURIS) Project – a five-year initiative that aims to contribute to the country’s efforts to improve the quality of judicial services and access to justice by poor and marginalized groups.
The JURIS Project was considered successful as it resulted to complete curriculum training in court-annexed mediation (CAM) and judicial dispute resolution (JDR) given to judges, mediators, lawyers, and court personnel; an increased capacity of the PHILJA on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) practices and training methods; and a strengthened Philippine Mediation Center Office (PMCO), the continuing mechanism within the courts for ADR training.
JDR, as an adjunct of court-annexed mediation, enables judges during the pre-trial stage to attempt to settle disputes between party-litigants after a similar effort by a court-accredited mediator has failed.
Through JDR, judges utilize their skills in mediation, conciliation, and early neutral evaluation to expedite case resolution and help decongest court dockets.
With the end of JURIS and subsequent to the piloting of JDR in six (6) model court sites in the country – San Fernando, Pampanga; Bacolod City; San Fernando, La Union; Cagayan de Oro City; Baguio City; and Makati City – PHILJA-PMCO is now taking the challenge of sustaining and scaling up JDR throughout the country.
Designating JDR Focal Persons and Devising the Work Plan for JDR
To demonstrate its commitment to this challenge, PHILJA-PMCO designated two PMCO lawyers, Atty. Rodel Hernandez and Atty. Jose Saluib Jr., as focal persons for JDR. Under the supervision of the PMC Chief of Office, they are expected to assume a vital role in the operations and management of the PMCO insofar as JDR is concerned. This includes ensuring that training activities are well-organized, monitoring tools and reporting processes are efficient, and that support systems for effective JDR implementation are in place.
As part of its Strategic Planning exercise early this year, PHILJA-PMCO further devised an annual work plan for enhancing JDR in existing sites as it decided to roll out JDR in two additional areas – Quezon City and Manila. The roll-out plan commences with a trainers’ conference, followed by faculty development workshops and capacity building activities for judges. This also includes orientation seminars for lawyers and court personnel, and an internship program with peer assistance aspects that involves current and newly-trained JDR judges.
Conducting the JDR Trainers’ Conference
In March 2010, PHILJA-PMCO conducted a two-day trainers’ conference among JDR practitioners in the country. The conference provided an opportunity for the judges to review existing JDR training modules through facilitated workshops and sharing of JDR experiences in their respective courts. It also generated recommendations for the development of enhanced training modules that are more relevant to the knowledge, skills, and attitude concerns of judges, court personnel, and lawyers in JDR.
Another important outcome of this conference was the judges’ affirmation of their commitment to advance JDR and to jumpstart future training initiatives by assuming the roles of course leaders, lecturers, resource persons, facilitators, and judge-mentors or peer assistants.
Enhancing JDR Training Program through Faculty Development Workshops
Held a day prior to each JDR training conference, PHILJA-PMCO conducted Faculty Development Workshops with the participating judge-lecturers, resource persons, and facilitators from the current JDR sites. The judge-trainers run through the course program to level-off on the program and session objectives, key learning points, intended training methodology, and materials to be used in the training.
As a result of the exercise, the training program was further enhanced with several changes in the program flow and session methodologies, such as the use of more experiential narratives, panel and group discussions, and additional role-play exercises. In both workshops, it is commendable that judge-trainers willingly adapted to the circumstances by modifying their assigned modules in a very short span of time.
Training 1st and 2nd Level Court Judges in Quezon City
Two training activities on JDR were organized in April and June 2010, the first of a planned series of trainings conducted by PHILJA-PMCO since the completion of the JURIS project.
The first training batch consists of twenty-six (26) judges from the first and second level courts of Quezon City, including newly appointed judges from the existing JDR sites of Makati City and Pampanga. The second training, on the other hand, saw the participation of forty-four (44) first and second level court judges of the city, including those that have not been previously trained in the current JDR sites of Makati City, Benguet, and La Union. JDR Judges Cesar O. Untalan and Selma P. Alaras, both from Makati City, respectively assumed the role of course leaders during these trainings.
Designed to develop and enhance the skills of judges in performing their functions as mediators, conciliators, and neutral evaluators under the court issuances on JDR, the participants were made to understand the context of JDR as a necessary complement of court-annexed mediation and the need for judges to go through a challenging paradigm shift in resolving disputes.
By means of lectures, interactive exercises, and role plays, judges were trained to expand their sphere of influence by conducting JDR and to understand conflicts by looking at the interests involved rather than just the legal rights of parties in resolving disputes. Judges being instrumental in facilitating the negotiations between the parties, skills enhancement exercises and strategies towards effective communication, such as active listening, framing and reframing techniques, were given. As process managers in JDR proceedings, judges were also trained on the use of caucuses as means of handling deadlocks in negotiations as well as other creative techniques for building trust, continuing communication and joint problem-solving among the parties. The trainings also considered the important ethical, cultural, and social dimensions of dispute resolution.
The participants highly appreciated JDR and the training activities. In their evaluation of the training, most judges found the sessions very interesting, skills-enhancing, and challenging as JDR requires them to assist the parties to think about creative and out-of-the-box solutions to their disputes.
Preparing Lawyers and Court Personnel on JDR in Quezon City
Following the judges’ training, a one-day orientation on JDR for clerks of court, prosecutors, and lawyers was organized by PHILJA-PMCO in coordination with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines – Quezon City Chapter. The executive judges of both court levels, Judge Fernando T. Sagun Jr. and Judge Caridad M. Walse-Lutero, also lend their support to this activity.
The orientation program sought to develop a clear understanding of JDR as a complement of court-annexed mediation and to encourage the members of the legal profession within and outside of the courts to become indispensable partners in this effort, particularly as JDR commences in Quezon City.
The program succeeded in drawing a total of ninety-three (93) attendees composed of 55 court personnel, 10 prosecutors, and 28 private law practitioners.
Overall, the initial efforts of PHILJA-PMCO to sustain and scale-up JDR in the country are turning out well, particularly in terms of enhancing the capacity of the judges in resolving disputes through mediation, conciliation, and early neutral evaluation. Recently trained judges gave positive evaluation of the JDR training activities. Of significance to most judges was the welcome challenge of moving mindsets in dispute resolution, of taking off one’s robes to demonstrate this paradigm shift, and of explaining such change in demeanor and process to the disputants.
Participants are likewise appreciative of the critical role of judges in contributing to the prompt resolution of cases, de-clogging of court dockets, and most importantly, empowerment of the parties in resolving their own disputes. Increased access to justice, preservation of relationships, and keeping of the peace are also perceived as attainable with JDR.
For these reasons, JDR has indeed stirred the interest and excitement of most judges.
Challenges and Next Steps
Apart from training activities, however, PHILJA-PMCO continues to take on the challenge of sustainability and scaling-up as it embarks on the needed next steps for JDR. This includes preparing for internship and actual roll-out of JDR in Quezon City, managing JDR operations at the PMC office and unit levels in the current and new sites, and strengthening JDR policies.
Preparations for the internship, including peer-to-peer mentoring, and actual roll-out in Quezon City are in progress. Without any external support akin to the JURIS project, PHILJA-PMCO, in coordination with the Office of the Court Administrator, confronts the need to mobilize its manpower and fund resources in order to facilitate the effective roll-out of JDR in Quezon City and other sites. JDR judges from Makati City will need to leave their courts in order to be tapped as peer assistants or mentors in case the newly trained judges from Quezon City would need guidance in the conduct of JDR during the internship period. This will be undertaken by a designated pool of JDR judge-mentors for every new JDR site.
Managing JDR operations at the PMC office and unit levels is another important challenge for PHILJA-PMCO. While focal persons for JDR have already been designated at the central PMC office and current sites are manned by a staff, PHILJA-PMCO needs to continually ensure that monitoring and reporting processes are efficient and that support systems for effective JDR implementation are in place. This includes improvements in reporting, monitoring and evaluation, and database management systems, coordination and feedback mechanisms, stakeholder management, partnership-building and resource mobilization.
Finally, with the constant interaction of policy and practice, PHILJA-PMCO needs to enhance current JDR policy guidelines so that these are more attuned to the felt needs of the JDR community. The initial training conferences have surfaced a number of substantive and procedural concerns that can be best addressed by appropriate policy responses. The challenge is to implement mechanisms that capture these concerns into responsive policy guidance for the JDR practitioners.
PHILJA-PMCO has definitely brewed positive steps towards strengthening ADR through Judicial Dispute Resolution. With strategic optimism and vigorous work to overcome the given challenges, tremendous success in sustaining and scaling-up JDR can be assured.
Brenda Jay Angeles Mendoza
ADOLFO S. AZCUNA