IBP, USAID launch Find Justice app: A Waze for judicial courts
MANILA — The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched on Thursday the Find Justice PH mobile application to improve the quality of services offered by the judiciary to the public.
Find Justice PH is a free Geographic Information System (GIS) app that connects Filipinos with information about courts and available legal services near their areas.
It enables users to identify the top three legal aid centers and trial courts that are closest to their location. It also provides the users pertinent names, addresses, and phone numbers of such institutions.
Philippine Judicial Academy Chancellor Justice Adolfo Azcuna said the access to courts, which is the app’s main feature, was a very important component of justice implementation.
Azcuna said that such app or system is not a new concept as it was already in use in South America 10 years ago.
“In Mexico, there’s even a live window with a lawyer, a person, alive who will talk to you about the information you need. That is the kind of service we will be developing for you in the future. But for now, it is enough that we have a downloadable app like this,” he said.
Azcuna said that the most basic need of the people was justice.
“Availability and flexibility of justice ito po ang pinakamahalaga. Sabi nga po sa amin sa Mindanao, kung walang pagkain kaya pa yan, magtatanim lang ng saging, makakakain na kami. Pero kung walang hustisya, hindi namin kaya yan (Availability and flexibility of justice, these are most important. As we say in Mindanao, if there is no food, we just plant bananas and then we would have something to eat. But if there is no justice, we can’t survive),” he said.
At the launch, Amador Tolentino Jr. , IBP’s Chief of Staff and Presidential Liaison for the Judiciary, said the mobile app was vital in supporting the institution’s campaign for civil rights, which is translated through the provision of quality legal assistance for those in need.
“This will open doors to common people to have access to basic legal services… so the legal needs can be addressed and the citizens’ legal rights can be asserted,” he said.
Tolentino said the app launch would be the beginning of a series of outreach programs to the public through infomercials that would have English and Filipino versions.
Supreme Court Administrator Justice Jose Midas Marquez said the app might “not be totally accurate but it would improve the citizens’ access to justice.”
“While there are some inaccuracies as courts are created over time, the IBP has committed to periodically update the data and keep the app up-to-date aside from court location and contact details… It contains relevant volunteer organizations,” Marquez said.
He said users could customize their search depending on their need.
“Other features include frequently asked questions and procedures for arraignment. We encourage everyone to download this app and use it, if not for assisting themselves, then to help someone in need,” he added.
Find Justice PH was created by XPlus Cloud Systems, a Filipino application development company.
Raymond Rodis, General Manager of XPlus Cloud Systems, admitted the app could not provide accurate location all the time.
“The location can’t be super accurate because there are only two ways through the Google map search and module with GPS (global positioning system) locator, which is quite impossible to do with 4,000 plus trial courts in the country… So we just use approximates sometimes,” he said.
But Rodis said users could report inaccurate locations and the IBP would revise them.
As for the provision of court case updates, Rodis said such feature would require more resources and bigger memory as far is storage is concerned.
“Hindi pa mapo-provide ang updates ng case… hindi pa alam kung anong version yun… (The case updates can’t be provided yet… not sure which version it will be included). There is a version 2 on the way where you can use the google route from your origin to locate the best way to the court, the IBP,” he said.
The app can be downloaded through Google Play Store and Apple IOS store. It requires 32 MB storage space.
“It’s only 32 MB for the NCR (National Capital Region) map and 181 MB if you want to download the whole Philippine map,” Rodis said.
He did not disclose IBP’s budget for the app development but he said “it costs comparatively low as it is a native app made by an all-Cebuano team.”
Supreme Court, American Bar Association, Office of the Court Administrator, Public Attorney’s Office, Legal Education Board, and Philippine Association of Law Schools and Volunteers helped IBP to make the entire app development possible. (With reports from Jomari Castigador, OJT/PNA)