Addressing the Deficit in Justice Delivery
Through Alternative Dispute Resolution
Hon. Menardo I. Guevarra
The publishing company Merriam-Webster a day ago declared “justice” as its word of the year.
That means “justice” is the most searched word in the company’s search engine for 2018.
That this is so gives us pause: why are people – in this day and age – still in a quandary about what justice means?
All throughout the world and throughout time, governments across jurisdictions have established institutions towards the attainment of justice.
Laws, courts and judicial bodies are all designed, and exist, for this purpose.
So do prosecutorial offices, and departments such as ours.
Every year, billions of public funds are allocated and used for the functioning of these institutions.
The massive investments in these institutions are indicative of the great significance accorded by societies to the attainment of justice.
Theoretically, if societal demand for justice is met, there will be less quandary on its meaning.
Because when there exists convergence in the demand for, and supply of, justice, both those who long and work for justice will be in silent agreement as to what it means.
It is for this reason that the widespread quandary on the meaning of justice is bothersome.
That people search for the meaning of justice is perhaps indicative of a discrepancy between the people’s conception of what justice ought to be, and the kind of justice delivered to them.
Call it justice deficit, if you will.
That there exists such deficit is not hard to imagine.
Like elsewhere, the dockets not only of our courts but also of our prosecutorial offices, have been clogged for years.
Many factors contribute to this.
There are not enough judges and prosecutors in our courts.
But given the propensity of our people to litigate, perhaps we never will reach a point when judges and prosecutors will ever be enough.
Clogged dockets are the most vivid representation of how delay in the delivery of justice amounts to its denial.
Each day that a case is left to rot in the docket translates to a day more of wait for one unjustly accused, or another denied of a rightful claim.
Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms are intended to address this delay.
Conceptually, ADR is a new system by which conflicting claims may be resolved outside the clogged courts.
It is alternative because it proposes a paradigm distinct from the one used in our present conflict-resolution system.
While the present system is hinged on the paradigm that right must prevail over wrong, ADR makes room for the possibility that parties in conflict may -- in varying degrees – be both right, such that a win-win solution may be crafted.
“…the real work of the OADR – and of the men
and women who constitute it – consists in
showing people the superiority of this new
While the present paradigm places a person presumed to know all that is right and just at the fulcrum of the conflict-resolution system, ADR acknowledges the notion that those in conflict are themselves knowledgeable enough to untangle themselves from their dispute; that they are mature enough to find common ground upon which the seeds of compromise may eventually sprout.
There are many other features of the ADR system that set it apart from the traditional conflict resolution paradigm.
Understanding these features is key to a deeper appreciation of the mandate of your Office.
It will be short sighted for us to accept that the Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution (OADR) is there simply to promote mediation, arbitration and other modes of alternative dispute resolution.
Or to train and accredit neutrals, for that matter.
There is no dispute that these, among others, form part of your work.
But the real work of the OADR – and of the men and women who constitute it – consists in showing people the superiority of this new conflict-resolution paradigm.
This the OADR can do by piloting, or causing the pilot of, ADR services in cases susceptible of compromise which are heard not only by government offices exercising quasi-judicial functions, but even by our own prosecution service.
Only by exposing disputants to this alternative are they made aware that there is no institutional monopoly in the resolution of claims.
Only by bringing ADR services to disputants in cases susceptible of compromise and settlement do we expose them to the reality that certain claims need not be resolved through the highly divisive and adversarial conflict resolution system that many have been accustomed to.
The work of your Office likewise consists in ensuring that neutrals as well as the institutions that offer ADR services are ethical, competent and efficient in assisting and facilitating the speedy resolution of disputes.
“…in some classes of cases, justice is birthed in
middle grounds that accommodate
compromise and amicable settlement”
The standards of ethics, competency and efficiency should equally apply to these neutrals and institutions, whether they be found in barangay halls in the poorest municipality or in the posh offices of arbitral institutions at the heart of our commercial and business districts.
Only by acquainting our people with ADR – not in theory but in reality – can we show them its superiority.
Only by standardizing the service of our neutrals and ADR institutions do we engender in our people trust in this new mechanism.
ADR is not merely an alternative to our present conflict-resolution paradigm; it is part and parcel of our entire institutional machinery designed to make our delivery of justice efficient and effective.
Mainstreaming ADR is therefore necessary not only to unclog case dockets in our courts and prosecutorial offices.
More importantly, its mainstreaming forces into the consciousness of the public the notion that in some classes of cases, justice is birthed in middle grounds that accommodate compromise and amicable settlement.
The stronger this consciousness holds sway over our populace, the less deficit there will be in the delivery of justice by our courts and offices.
In closing, allow me to thank each of you for your contribution thus far in the work of the OADR.
I know many of you have accepted your task at this Office in addition to your role as state prosecutors or state counsels.
But your stay at the OADR at the crucial stage of its institutionalization has afforded you the opportunity to experience and understand its birthing pains.
This experience is of great significance as we shepherd not only the Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution, but ADR, itself from infancy to maturity.
Your first-hand experience in addressing the problems and challenges in the past years should prove invaluable as we craft present policies for, and chart the future directions of, ADR in the country.
Let me therefore extend my gratitude to each of you for your help, even as I solicit your continued support in our efforts to further the development of ADR in this jurisdiction.
Thank you and good morning.
MALIGAYANG PASKO SA INYONG LAHAT!