Weighing in on the proposed splitting up of the SC
Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, chair of the President’s Consultative Panel on Constitutional Change, recently put forward a proposal to divide the Supreme Court into three separate bodies, each focused on specific aspects of the law.
The purpose of this move, he claims, is to enhance the efficiency of the Court through specialization, and thus accelerate the pace of resolution of its huge backlog of pending cases. One might add that the spillover effects of this proposed constitutional amendment among the lower courts of the land will effectively remove a major source of corruption in our judicial system.
However, for all the obvious advantages of specialization and division of labor from the standpoint of economic production, there are reasons for proceeding with extreme caution in considering this truly novel idea.
A sweeping change in the structure of such a longstanding and highly revered institution as the Supreme Court of the land is fraught with risks and uncertainties and may have potentially damaging consequences not only on the institution but also on the larger body politic.
A change of such magnitude is bound to be extremely disruptive and may lead to prolonged chaos, ultimate irrelevance, and eventual demise.
As an alternative, I propose a more gradual and incremental approach to institutional change, one that is less intrusive, one that insures a semblance of continuity, but also one that is more likely to be successful over the long haul.
A more promising strategy to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the Supreme Court is to go beyond the computerization of routine tasks and standard procedures, and to automate its decision processes, data analysis and knowledge management.
The technology and technical expertise are in hand, are affordable and have been successfully used not only in industry but in government as well. These will serve as a useful set of tools to complement the brilliant legal minds that comprise the highest court of the land.
The results are potentially more consequential and predictable. The Court should give it a try.
In deciding on the wide-ranging cases that are brought before it, the Court must consider the interrelatedness and larger social ramifications of the various provisions of law.
It must realize that decisions based on, say, constitutional or administrative law, have implications on the economy and on the ecology.
Being too focused on narrowly defined aspects of the law results in what I call “loss of peripheral vision,” the inability to relate specific issues to related ones outside of one’s circumscribed area of responsibility.
Individual cases should therefore be resolved with a holistic frame of mind, and not from a specialist perspective.
There is an urgent need for just one final arbiter of the multitudinous and positively interrelated—and at times conflicting or inconsistent—provisions of our complex legal system, and to ensure their unified and coherent interpretation.
For all its many faults, the Supreme Court should remain a single, collegial body.
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