Last September, this publication urged the then newly minted Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro to institute some badly needed reforms in the Supreme Court (SC) and the justice system during her brief three-month tenure as the top magistrate of the nation.
Unfortunately, those suggestions were ignored.
De Castro’s successor is Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin. If Bersamin is interested in genuine judicial reform, he has until October this year to pursue it.
One of the most important reforms Bersamin should undertake is in the rules of the SC.
More specifically, Bersamin should prohibit, once and for all, the filing of second motions for reconsideration in any case resolved by the SC. There are many good reasons for disallowing second motions for reconsideration.
“Prohibiting the filing of a second motion for reconsideration promotes stability in jurisprudence.
At present, the rules of the SC provide that a party litigant may file a second motion for reconsideration only with leave of the SC and upon payment of the proper filing fee. In other words, the filing of a second motion for reconsideration is both tolerated and discouraged.
The practice of the SC is to deny outright a second motion for reconsideration. Being so, then it is in the best interest of justice, the SC and the parties that a second motion for reconsideration should be declared a prohibited pleading.
Prohibiting the filing of a second motion for reconsideration promotes stability in jurisprudence. When a first motion for reconsideration has been denied, the prevailing party and the public in general ought to expect that the case is res judicata, and beyond further review. There should be no need for anybody to inquire if a second motion for reconsideration had been filed, and ruled upon by the SC.
Prohibiting the filing of a second motion for reconsideration also levels the playing field for all party litigants, particularly for those parties whose first and only motion for reconsideration was denied, and who did not file a second motion for reconsideration on the reasonable and respectful assumption that the SC justices concerned had already thoroughly studied and understood their decision and, therefore, will be unlikely to be fickle enough to change their minds.
“Allowing litigants to file a second motion for reconsideration in the SC may give rise to the public impression that the SC justices who denied the first motion for reconsideration are either fickle or incompetent.
Unless the filing of a second motion for reconsideration is explicitly disallowed by the SC, losing litigants, especially those with deep pockets, will flood the SC with volumes of second motions for reconsideration which often results in a wastage of paper. Second motions for reconsideration also create false hopes, and force litigants to incur needless expense.
A specter arises when the SC denies a first motion for reconsideration and later grants a second motion for reconsideration, especially one prepared by a lawyer with powerful connections. The losing litigant and the public in general are bound to suspect, correctly or incorrectly, that money has exchanged hands somewhere, somehow, or that the hidden hand of influence was involved in the matter. That will not be good for the administration of justice.
In short, allowing litigants to file a second motion for reconsideration in the SC may give rise to the public impression that the SC justices who denied the first motion for reconsideration are either fickle or incompetent, or were bought or influenced, and that the rules of the SC can be bent or interpreted to favor those who are able to influence the administration of justice.
Magistrates, lawyers and law students all know that for SC decisions to be considered as authoritative pronouncements of what the law is and, more importantly, what the law means, there should be stability in jurisprudence, uniformity in the application of the rules of litigation, and credibility in the way final decisions are arrived at by the SC. A decision of the SC, no matter how well written, which is rendered under circumstances that would naturally invite suspicion, does not augur well for a justice system which demands that there should be no preferential treatment for any litigant seeking relief from the SC.
Chief Justice Bersamin has until October 2019 to institute this badly needed reform. Hopefully, he will succeed where De Castro failed.