Friday, June 29, 2012

Questions that must be asked of shortlisted nominees for Chief Justice

In our letter to the JBC last June 28, we put forth questions we believe every candidate for Chief Justice must address. Below are some of my questions but if you have your own, feel free to share them here.

1. How will you maintain your independence regardless of your relationship with the President or any of his political allies and/or critics?

2. What is your stand on the use of the JDF and on allegations regarding the lack of transparency in utilizing this fund?

3. Is the conviction rate of 16 percent in criminal cases acceptable to you? If not, what do you intend to do to raise conviction rates in the country comparable to that of Hong Kong, for example, which has a conviction rate of 79 percent?

4. How will you ensure that our judges and justices do not succumb to corruption?

5. What is your plan to fill up the massive vacancies in courts around our country?

6. The vacancy rate for judgeship positions is now pegged at 25 percent. Is this acceptable to you? If not, then what do you intend to do to address this problem?

7. The average case life in the first-level courts is six years. Is this not a clear violation of the constitutional right to a speedy trial? If you become Chief Justice, what do you intend to do to shorten the trial period? How do you intend to ensure that the average of six years is reduced considerably?

8. Do you think the JELACC should be convened to help address key problems of the justice system? How can the JELACC be an instrument for modernizing the judiciary?

9. Is it fair for the judiciary to be receiving one percent of the national budget? Would you have any proposals in regard to budgetary reforms for the justice system?

Thank you in advance for considering this letter. We fervently hope the JBC members will consider raising these questions to nominees during the public interviews.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sen. Koko is welcome to join LP coalition

Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III is welcome to join the Liberal Party coalition should he decide to seek a new political home.

Koko is welcome to become a candidate for the LP coalition if he is in search of an alternative to the UNA line-up. He will be more than welcome to the ticket and, should he decide to affiliate himself with us, I am willing to help him do so and persuade the leadership of the party and the coalition to include him in the ticket.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Our letter to the Judicial and Bar Council

Below is a scanned copy of the letter that we sent to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) last June 5, 2012.

June 4, 2012

2ND Floor, Centennial Building
Supreme Court
Padre Faura, Manila


Hon. Antonio T. Carpio, Acting Ex-Officio Chairman
Hon. Leila M. de Lima, Ex Officio Member
Hon. Francis G. Escudero, Ex Officio Member
Hon. Niel C. Tupas, Jr., Ex Officio Member
Hon. Regino C. Hermosisima, Jr., Retired Sc Justice Representative
Hon. Jose V. Mejia, Academe Representative
Hon. Aurora Santiago Lagman, Private Sector Representative
Hon. Maria Milagros N. Fernan-Cayosa, Integrated Bar of the Philippines Representative

Re: Proposed Amendments to the JBC rules

In the recently concluded impeachment trial, we have seen how accountability has allowed the people to participate in governance and be involved in the change process. There is an obvious need to institute the necessary reforms in our justice system. As such, we should make the process of selection of the Chief Justice transparent. The appointment of our public officials is a matter of public interest. The Constitution guarantees our people the right to information on matters of public interest. No less than the Supreme Court has allowed the public disclosure of the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALNs) of the justices of the High court, as well as the other judges and justices of the judiciary.

In view of the foregoing, I respectfully propose that with the exception of executive sessions dealing with matters that are confidential in nature, which shall be made available to the public only upon majority vote of the members of the Council present, the voting process for any judicial post in the Sandiganbayan, Court of Appeals, and Supreme Court, or Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman, including all meetings and deliberations prior to the voting shall be open to the public.

Thank you.

Very truly yours,


Monday, June 4, 2012

Amend rules to allow for JBC meetings, deliberations to be open to public

We urge the Judicial and Bar Council to take the lessons learned from the recently concluded impeachment process against former Chief Justice Renato Corona in implementing much-needed reforms in the Judiciary.

There is an obvious need to institute necessary reforms in our justice system. The first step would be to make the processes transparent. We have seen how accountability has allowed the people to participate in governance and be involved in the change process. It has also put pressure to officials in disclosing their SALNs despite their invoking of the foreign currency act. The people are the crucial element in instituting reforms in government.

We call on the government to reconvene the Judicial Executive Legislative Advisory Consultative Council to aid in instituting reforms in the Judiciary, specifically budgetary assistance.

The Judiciary receives only 1% of the national budget—that is unacceptable. We cannot hope to have a first-world system of justice with a third-world budgetary allocation. When the JELACC reconvenes, this matter may be tackled as well as mapping out long-term institutional reforms to address the languishing backlog of court cases and the many vacancies in our courts.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Convene JELACC, increase budgetary support for judiciary to push for urgent reforms

Removing the Chief Justice is just the first step to instituting reforms in the Philippine judiciary, the urgent next steps to are to convene the Judicial Executive Legislative Advisory and Consultative Council (JELACC) and to push for budgetary support in order to institute reforms in the judiciary.

When a new Chief Justice assumes office, the President should convene the JELACC and map out budgetary support for modernizing the justice system.

Now that the biggest stumbling block to reforms in the justice system has been removed, it is incumbent upon Malacañang to prepare for the first JELACC meeting under this administration and discuss critical action points necessary to modernize the judiciary.

The JELACC, our brainchild, was constituted in 2008 to discuss judicial reforms, particularly budgetary assistance to the judiciary for their reforms and modernization. It has convened a few times during the previous administration, but has not yet met under the current administration.

We need to invest in reforms in the judiciary because the the country cannot move forward unless its laws are strictly enforced and unless accountability is exacted from wrongdoers. For this, a modernized and fully functioning judicial bureaucracy is essential.

There is a need to double the budget of the judiciary. The judiciary receives only one percent (1%) of the national budget—this is too low. We cannot have a first-world system of justice with a third-world budgetary allocation.

We need to create more courts and to address the huge backlog of cases that has caused the average case in the first-level courts to last for an average of six years. This is totally unacceptable.

There is an urgent need to address the vacancies in both the judiciary and the prosecution service that have been a major source of delays in criminal trials. There is a need to increase conviction rates from a measly sixteen percent (16%) to as high as sixty to seventy percent (60-70%) by 2016.

There is a need for a more strategic look at how reforms in the judiciary ought to be implemented. A road map for reforming the justice system must be put in place and the budget for it must be allocated to ensure that reforms are achieved.