Nancy Binay renews call for the creation of arbitration commission

Manila Bulletin

Senator Nancy Binay said that cases and disputes arising from, or connected with medical malpractice, insurance laws, maritime laws, intellectual property law, and intra-corporate matters should be settled by another body to decongest court dockets.

Binay, who is running for senator in the coming May elections, has been pushing for the creation of Philippine Arbitration Commission since her first election in 2013 for the speedy disposition of cases.

According to former Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, there were about 160,000 cases pending in the 1,200 first-level courts (city and municipal courts) and 640,000 in the 1,100 second-level courts or the regional trial courts as of 2017. Panganiban said there was no statistics yet for 2018.

The vast majority of litigations end in the trial courts.

The Court of Appeals (CA) has about 18,500 pending cases; the Sandiganbayan, 5,500; the Court of Tax Appeals, 1,200; and the Supreme Court, 8,500, Panganiban said.

“About 80 percent of the cases are criminal in nature, of which about 50 percent are drugs-related. The remaining 20 percent noncriminal cases can be mediated, compromised and ended sans laborious written judgments,” Panganiban said.

It is in this context that Binay wanted the creation of a governmental body that would settle “areas of dispute.”

“It is appropriate and timely to introduce mandatory arbitration to disputes involving medical malpractice, insurance laws, maritime laws, intellectual property law and intra-corporate matters, or collectively known as the ‘areas of dispute,'” Binay said.

The senator has filed Senate Bill 2033 to be known as the “Philippine Arbitration Commission Act of 2017” to address the recurring problem of congested cases pending in courts and the prolonged period of case resolutions.

Excluded from her proposed measure are disputes arising from employer-employee relationships; territorial disputes in the high seas with neighboring countries; and construction disputes which are governed by Executive Order No. 1008, or the “Construction Industry Arbitration Law.”

“The mandatory arbitration before the Philippine Arbitration Commission would definitely alleviate the recurring problem of clogged dockets in our courts. Decongestion of cases will soon be realized as a number of cases could be taken out of the jurisdiction of the judiciary,” she said.

Under the measure, a sole arbitrator or three arbitrators, called the Arbitral Tribunal are mandated to settle a dispute. The arbitrators are accredited by the Commission.

The commission will be chaired by the University of the Philippines (UP) College of law dean, with seven members to be appointed by the President.

Ex-officio members of the commission will be the secretaries of the Department of Health (DoH) and the Department of Transportation (DoTr); the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); the Insurance Commission chair; and the director general of the Intellectual Property Office.

Binay said arbitration over the areas of disputes will allow involved parties the flexibility and autonomy to resolve conflicts, compared to the courts which are bound to strict rules of evidence.

“With the greater transparency and high comfort of level doing business in the country, foreign investors are more inclined to invest here in our country. Accordingly, this bill will definitely augment their decision to shift here as it affords them greater democracy in settling disputes,” Binay said. (Bagong Senado)