Last week, I started reposting my old blog entry "4 Proposed Solutions to Help Fix the Philippines." I'll be posting one proposal a day until we get to Proposal No. 4. To read Proposal No. 1, click HERE.
2. Ending Pervasive Corruption; Modernizing the Justice System
Pervasive corruption will not cease unless we punish more and punish swiftly. We cannot punish more and punish swiftly unless we modernize our Judiciary and provide it with the necessary resources to do so. So many politicians decry corruption yet apart from exposes, they have not presented concrete steps to address corruption. Here are concrete, doable steps to address the scourge.
Increase conviction rates. The conviction rate of the Ombudsman in the Sandiganbayan (the country's anti-graft court) for corruption cases is pegged at an estimate of less than 20 percent. For every 10 cases filed, less than two end up in conviction; the rest of the cases are dismissed. No wonder there is no fear of committing corrupt acts. More than 8 out of 10 get away it. This is in sharp contrast to the conviction rates in Hong Kong for corruption cases which is pegged at 79 percent. Nearly 8 out of 10 are convicted.
Image courtesy of the Sandiganbayan website
Hence if we are to punish more we must focus on upping the conviction rates to 50 percent within a three-year period and perhaps reach 65 to 70 percent within 6 years from 2010. When more are punished and punished swiftly, respect for the rule of law will return. It is the certainty of punishment that instills fear and respect for our laws. It is the task of the Justice system to ensure that the conviction rates are upped. An anti-corruption task force must be organized at the highest levels to monitor the big cases and to ensure that government resources are harnessed to ensure convictions within a period of 18 to 24 months from the time of its organization. The proverbial big fish must not be allowed to get away.
Double the Judiciary budget. In addition, we must modernize the Judiciary. The Judiciary Executive Legislative Advisory Council (JELACC) was created in 2007 precisely to address the budget woes of the Judiciary. The Philippine Judiciary receives a measly sum of less than 1 percent of the national budget. The remaining 97-plus percent goes to the Executive Department while some 2 percent goes to the Legislative Department. The bulk of the funds are with the Executive.
Image courtesy of The Daily PCIJ
By upping the budget of the Judiciary to, say, 2 percent of the 1.17 trillion national budget, we give rise to the swift dispensation of justice, the creation of more courts, the construction of justice halls, the filling up of vacancies of existing courts, the augmenting of the compensation and benefits of judges, prosecutors and court personnel. Through the JELACC, the budgetary target of 2 percent--or, in real terms, some 20 plus billion pesos--can be achieved within a period of 6 years or within the term of a sitting president.
Reduce the average case life/Create more courts. It takes 6 long years on average for a case to be decided upon in the first-level courts. This is too long. With the increase in budgetary support for the judiciary, our courts through the leadership of the Supreme Court must endeavor to reduce the average life span of a case that remains pending before our courts. Today, data reveals that the average case life is 6 years--not yet including appeals. This is totally unacceptable. Within a period of six years and with the creation of more courts, appointment of more judges, the filling up of vacancies in the judiciary the life span of a case on average should be reduced to 2 years maximum.
Research provided by the Supreme Court shows that the ideal ratio of the number of judges per number of people is one judge for every 10,000. Our situation is that there is one judge for every 50,000 or 5 times more than the ideal number.
We must create more courts to be able to reach the ideal level and to speed up the disposition of cases. When cases are resolved swiftly and fairly then the respect, trust and confidence in our justice system is reinforced immensely.
If the nation is likened to a computer, the judicial system is the hard drive and its natural resources, its educated workforce, and its economic investments among others its software. No amount of the latest software made available will matter if the hard drive is not effectively in place.