Official Website of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Agusan del Sur

CJ Sereno's idea of ‘paperless courts’ doable — local exec

Paperless sessions in all courts in the country can be done if new Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno will pursue it seriously.

Agusan del Sur Vice Governor Santiago Cane Jr., locally known as "father" of paperless sessions in his province, said this in reaction to a speech by the new Chief Justice Sereno before the gathering of the Presidents of Law Associations in Asia (POLA) in Manila Wednesday.

"Paperless courts is very doable... why not?," Cane told GMA News Online when asked if paperless courts were possible in the Philippines.

In her first-ever speech as chief justice at Wednesday's POLA meeting, Sereno pushed for “paperless courts” as a mechanism for the judiciary to help protect the environment and address the threats posed by floods.

“We have to rethink our paper-based system and usher in a judicial system that is less paper dependent… Because the environment and technological changes are taking place fast, we in the judiciary also have to move fast in the delivery of justice in the context of this changing environment,” she said.

One way to stop the cutting of trees, she stressed, is to lessen the use of paper.

 “We in the Judiciary must watch and respond effectively in these changes taking place. We need to think of our judicial records and ensure their physical integrity when disaster strikes,” Sereno added.

Cane is known in his province as the "father of paperless sessions" for starting on Sept. 24, 2007, a paperless Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) session .

Agusan Sur's paperless session started earlier than the state Senate of Hawaii's adoption of the practice. An article on Hawaii's website, said the Senate of Hawaii held their first paperless session in 2008.

Cane said he started toying with the idea of paperless sessions when he was then secretary-general of the Provincial Board Members' League of the Philippines (PBMLP).

"The paperless session in the province of Agusan del Sur started as a simple concept when I, as a provincial board member, was elected Secretary-General of the Provincial Board Members' League of the Philippines (PBMLP)," he said.

"As PBMLP's secretary, I attended meetings of the national executive officers and the National Board with a sizable number of documents packed into several bags, which made every trip arduous and tiresome,"  he added.

Alos, he said every member in attendance had to be provided these materials which meant the documents had to be reproduced – an expensive and tedious task.

Paperless session process

The provincial legislature of Agusan del Sur holds its regular session every Monday.

"All documents (agenda, minutes of the previous session, measures for deliberation, ordinances and resolutions for first, second and third readings, petitions and memorials, resolutions and ordinances from lower Sanggunians for review and approval, etc.) are scanned to produce soft copies (in PDF format) and uploaded into the laptops of the presiding officer, members of the SP, Secretary to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and other SP staff, every Thursday or Friday," Cane said.

The system enables all provincial board members to study all the necessary documents including the agenda for the next  SP session.

 "Assigned SP staff members are tasked to scan all documents for deliberation. These documents are hyper-linked to a specific item in the agenda. During session proper, everything is projected onto a white screen mounted on the wall of the session hall. During discussion, corrections and amendments introduced by the members of the Sangguniang are instantly integrated into the draft measure. Duly approved drafts are then printed into final copies for signing," the vice governor explained.

Cane said a study of existing records showed the Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Agusan del Sur used to consume an average of 4,758 sheets of bond paper for each session.

"With the introduction of the paperless session, no bond paper is required, thus saving on costs, man-hours, and most importantly, saving our environment – less trees converted into paper," he said.

Other advantages include the faster and more efficient session process, faster retrieval of documents, easier data management, and no more storage [physical] hassle," he said.

"One can just imagine, if the 81 Sangguniang Panlalawigans (provincial boards), 120 Sangguniang Panlungsods (city councils), 1,508 Sangguniang Bayans (municipal councils), and 40,043 Sangguniang Barangays (village councils) in the whole country, if the Senate and the House of Representatives go paperless in their respective sessions, how much money can the country save in terms of paper and reproduction costs? How much manpower can be spared?" he added.

He claimed local government units in several parts of the country have introduced and replicated Agusan del Sur’s paperless sessions, but said he has no exact data on how many LGUs nationwide have already used the system.

"I don't have the exact number but the concept is already being used in several LGUs, some with their own innovations,” he noted. — LBG, GMA News

Source: GMA News

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