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.