Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Understanding Nation Building (Part 10)

On Judiciary

We continue in our series to construe Blueprints for a Viable Philippines. As always, we present Blueprints' point of view and then we discuss from our point of view.


The Situation: The practice in almost every administration has been to pack the judiciary, just like any other branch of government, with individuals whose most important qualification is their political connection. The continuing education of judges and government prosecutors, while important, is not enough to cure the ills brought about by the appointment of mediocre and incompetent judges. The existence of corruption in the judiciary is also a prevalent concern.

BLUEPRINT Analysis: Case congestion, delay, and the lack of appreciation of the potential contribution of a more informed interpretation of the law and the Constitution in the Philippine setting, continue to be the main problems of the justice system.

Within such a system, corruption is easy; where the poor and powerless are involved, justice is seldom delivered.

BLUEPRINT Recommendations: Appointments to the Supreme Court should be the result of a professional evaluation of the candidate’s credentials in legal interpretation and court management. Their integrity should be beyond reproach. The Supreme Court should be more judicious in its choice of cases.

It should focus more on cases with policy implications. The appointment to the judiciary shall be transparent and open to public scrutiny. Judges who make wrong decisions because of incompetence or corruption shall be liable to civil damages as well as administrative and criminal sanctions. The bar exams will be made less important than they are today by opening new venues for training, like apprenticeships. The use of Filipino in court procedures will be actively promoted to make the law more accessible to the poor. There will be a program to translate and disseminate statutes in Filipino. The Commission on Human Rights shall be given prosecutorial powers.

Big Mango:

The Rule of Law has been a problem in the Philippines. Without the unbiased guidance of Law, we become a society in Anarchy. Sadly, it is an open secret that influence peddling and the flow of money has made justice in the Philippines... a flexible exercise.

Let us admit, that it is of course human nature when those in power create avenues by which they retain power and putting trusted people in place is but one tool at their disposal. Both money and people in Judiciary have their practical uses. It also speaks of the this society's very feudal nature.

Whatever solutions we can provide requires two essential ingredients. First, those within the Judiciary are themselves committed and second, those of us in Society are likewise willing to play fairly and within Rules set about by Law. Tall order, certainly isn't it?

Reforming the Judiciary begins by making every participant in the execution of Justice, more reason to enforce it than to break it. Ergo, Judges and their staff would have to be well compensated--- to avoid the serious temptation of fixing a case. Law Enforcement officials likewise the same. Yet as we do so, we must seriously crack down on the influence peddling.

In the first case, the classical problem of where to get the funds arises. Hence the answer that Courts of Law must be made and paid from local governments. They can be proportionally created depending on the size and scope of the territory and of course the economic capability of the local government. Ergo, we do not spend more than absolutely necessary.

Easier said than done.

These too must be examples--- huge cases that have been brought before the courts and taken seriously. This is a crucial test because if Justice is indeed been made, Laws in this land will not become mere suggestions. There must also be order in our daily lives, we must enforce the law on traffic rules as discipline also begins there.

We must be true to the spirit and letter of the Law. Our people must believe that the Law will defend them when needed and when they believe then, they will trust.

Our national prisons need to be sent to the local governments as well--- too many prisoners are kept while they are on trial, but what if they are innocent and have spent years rotting in jail? Our penal system therefore is not geared towards redemption but towards creating more problems. Where is the Justice in that?

The Supreme Court should be appointments nominated by the President and concurred after scrutiny of a body like the Senate (or similar body). Like it or not, we must entrust this to those officials we have elected. How can we not? What good are elections if those we elect are not trusted with the responsibility to govern us? And who these Justices of the Supreme Court be, we must entrust to the leaders of the time because we must entrust to them the ability to see, perceive to know what our people need then.

As for Judges of the Lower Court, the Supreme Court administers the Lower Courts of Law. We entrust to them the impartiality, the wisdom to make the right decisions and if we can not entrust to them the management of their lower Courts, how can we entrust to them the framework in which we live as Citizens of this country? We must leave to them the Appointment of Judges and the number of such Lower Courts of Law, should be determined by the Local Government.

We must leave to the Wisdom of the Supreme Court how they manage their courts--- including the right to whatever form of language they must use. And if there is a problem with that, they must decide on it, I suppose together with the Law Schools in the Country and the Integrated Bar.

That said, there is a fundamental flaw in the way we live our lives that when you look at it, makes the very problem of Justice, but an effect. When we removed Estrada from power, it was through an Extra Constitutional mean. Let us admit that.

In hindsight, perhaps it should not have been. But on one hand, this might be the wakeup call our people need. This may be the catalyst that forces our people's hand to do what is right for all of us.

True Justice in our society will come when it is impartial in resolving disputes. It will come when we allow our Laws to be enforced. Our people are almost ready for that.