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Magnificent in Iloilo October 27, 2007

Posted by Janjan in All, I, Lawyer.

I am writing in the stark new whiteness that is Iloilo’s international airport, arriving an hour earlier than my scheduled flight. It is 7:43 in the morning, a diffused gray light permeating through gray overcast clouds and the vents of the airport roof.

Two days earlier, I was appearing for the private complainant in a criminal case for the violation of B.P. Blg. 22, the Bouncing Checks Law. It was an interesting experience for me, one where the gentle spirit of the Ilonggo people was laid bare before the halls of justice.

Being a case for bouncing checks, my hearing was held at the Municipal Trial Court, where jurisdiction over B.P. 22 cases is lodged. There were around 20 other cases slated for hearing prior to our case’s arraignment, in various stages of hearing, from arraignment to pre-trial to full-blown trial.

I was amused to observe the proceedings of these cases. Most of these were for violations of B.P. 22, and I was surprised to see that considering the number of cases slated for hearing that day, I only saw a few lawyers. The room could barely contain the throng of people gathering outside to participate in the proceedings. The first few cases were called, and to confirm my suspicions, most if not all the party-litigants weren’t represented by legal counsel. That was weird. In Cebu, it is very uncommon for parties to appear in court without being represented by a lawyer, while here in this court, counsel represented only 1 out of every 5 cases.

The judge started the day by berating the number of people gathered before her to try their cases, for the reason that so many of the B.P. 22 cases lodged with her court had barely moved from the date of filing. Now this is surprising, notwithstanding the delay in the Philippine justice system. In my experience in Cebu, B.P. 22 cases usually were resolved within a year, or 2 years most. But it seemed like each and every case that stood before the judge had long been stuck in litigation, taking around 3 to 5 years to move from arraignment to pre-trial, which is highly unusual.

Now there can only be two reasons for this delay of so many number of cases. It was either that that particular court didn’t have a judge for the said number of years and that the judge before me was newly installed to her position. But on the other hand, it could also be that the party litigants themselves delayed the trial of the case either through neglect, lack of interest, or mutual consent to delay the case.

Judging from the ebullient rantings of that judge, I guess the situation in this court was of the latter, that the litigants themselves have not moved for the prosecution of the case. Again, I found this unusual. Usually, in Cebu, once the private complainant filed the case for B.P. 22, his lawyer’s marching orders are to hasten the proceedings for immediate collection in the case. But here in Iloilo, I was amused to find that the private complainants themselves were asking the judge to give them more time to settle the case with the accused, as if they were embarrassed to have filed the case in the first place with the court. Of course, the judge got angrier at that point and started chiding the parties in Ilonggo.

“Ti lima na ka tuig inyong settlement haw, kag way pa gihapon mo na obra nga compromise. Guin-usik-usik lang ninyo akon oras, indi na puwede! Mag-pre-trial na ta subong, kay kun dili, akon i-dismiss ang kaso!” (You have been trying to settle this case for 5 years and until now, you still haven’t worked out a compromise. You’re just wasting my time, this cannot be. We shall have pre-trial today, otherwise I will dismiss the case).

I actually pitied the accused. Had they hired a lawyer, they themselves could have moved for the dismissal of the case with prejudice, for the violation of their Constitutional right to speedy trial. 5 years is an abnormally long time to resolve a B.P. 22 case. And for what? The amounts involved in the trial were very minimal, ranging anywhere from P10,000 to P30,000.

This reveals a lot about the Ilonggo people to me, insofar as litigation is concerned. Based on this, I infer that Ilonggos are very gentle people who would avoid direct confrontation at all costs, preferring to work things out through compromise and discussion. Judging from their behavior in the courts, the party litigants seemed like they didn’t want to have to resort to litigation to enforce collection of the checks, but perhaps to show the accused that they meant business, the private complainants filed the cases anyway for collection.

In Cebu, you would have found the party litigants arguing in heated debate before the judge. Here in Iloilo, after sheepish appearance before the courts, the parties walked away shaking hands and smiling at each other. Interesting. Indeed, the Ilonggos are a warm and gentle people.

My client, a Cebuano contractor for construction projects, also pointed out something interesting about Iloilo: the buildings and their interiors were better designed than the ones in Cebu. He concluded that architects here had more say over the outcome of the building and that Ilonggos were willing to spend good money for good-looking homes and offices, much like the people in Manila. This was unlike Cebu where cost, value and functionality were more important considerations over design and aesthetics, evidenced by the admittedly drab and Spartan design of Cebuano structures. In Cebu, the contractor had bigger say over the final outcome of the construction, much more than the architects, consistent with the Cebuano mentality that “We don’t care so much about it looking fancy, just make sure the building is stable and built at low cost.”

I wish I had more time to tour around during my stay here but my time was spent at the hotel studying my cases and working on pending pleadings. I would have wanted to visit the old houses and churches that the Ilonggos are known for. At least I got to meet up with old friends and sample some of the tasty Ilonggo cuisine. The batchoy and the inasal nga manok was superb. I also got to see that contrary to what I expected, Iloilo was actually quite urbane. I was expecting something like Tagbilaran or Dipolog, a city that still looks like a town.

Well… they’re calling my flight back home to Cebu. Thus ends my first ever trip to the land of batchoy, Dinagyang, beautiful buildings and gentle people. It was an interesting trip, but nevertheless, it would be good to go back home.



1. siu - October 27, 2007

bai, i don’t know if Tatoy’s still there but if it is, i hope you had dropped by. bisaya manok and catfish… pirti… 🙂

2. northwolf - October 27, 2007

Next time! I’ll drop by and try it… I think I recall passing by Tatoy’s. I love catfish, especially if it’s fried crispy!

Thanks for the recommendation!

3. saity - October 30, 2007

hope you brought with you boxes of barquillos bro…hehehe

4. girlfromdipolog - October 30, 2007

Did you just say you’re a judge?!? Kulbaa nimo oi.
But interesting observations on Ilonggos.

5. northwolf - October 30, 2007

Hahaha… I’m not a judge oi. Read the entry again. 🙂 If I were a judge, I would not be blogging!

6. iloilo city boy - November 19, 2007

Your observations are right on. We Ilonggos are a gentle and laid-back people and we abhor confrontations. I’ve been to Cebu many times and one interesting thing I noticed about Cebuanos is their “practicality” and preference of “function over form.” An example is the popularity of puso (those rice balls wrapped in banana leaf) in Cebu which allows a person to eat while on the go. This will not do for an Ilonggo – we like to eat leisurely (and always sitting down). This is why, even though Iloilo City is thoroughly urban (in ten years time we will be like Mandaue or Lapu Lapu City), you can still see many people going home to eat their lunches there.

I hope you can come back to Iloilo again.

7. iloilo city boy - November 19, 2007

And btw, Tatoy’s is still there.

8. northwolf - November 19, 2007

Oy thank you very much for confirming my observations, ICB. 🙂 Just a small correction… puso is wrapped in coconut leaves, not banana.

For me, you are already bigger than Mandaue and Lapu-lapu City, and a lot more urbane. You already have 2 big malls… both cities don’t. I haven’t been to Bacolod for a long time, and I think you are even bigger than Bacolod.

9. bodgie - November 24, 2008

Do you think that the policy preference has adversely affected the deterrent effect of B.P. 22? I’m doing a research on this and one of my theories is that it does. Also, I think that the policy preference is a judicial legislation. What are your thoughts on this?

10. northwolf - November 24, 2008

1) No, considering most lay people are not even aware that such policy preference exists.

2) No, it’s not judicial legislation. The courts are given judicial fiat to choose how to impose the penalty by the law. They just show a marked preference for payment.

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