A hypocritical Supreme Court decision

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The Supreme Court has found Judge Santiago Soriano of the La Union Municipal Trial Court guilty of gross inefficiency and gross ignorance of the law.

In a ten-page decision issued a few days ago, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio wrote “the unreasonable delay in deciding cases and resolving incidents and motions [by the judge], and his failure to decide remaining cases before his compulsory retirement constitutes gross inefficiency which cannot be tolerated.”

The offense was committed in 2006, and that’s what bothers us. The decision excoriating the judge for the delay in the disposition of cases is also delayed—for seven years in fact. The judge has been fined P40,000, an amount that will be deducted from his retirement benefits. Who will fine the Supreme Court?

Apart from gross inefficiency, Judge Soriano was also found guilty of gross ignorance of the law, for deciding cases the day after he retired.

Try to imagine the judge remembering the cases he left undecided. He hastily came back to his former chamber and wrote a guilty or not guilty verdict on the record of each case according to the spirit that moved him, perhaps even doing away with the dispositive portion. Alas, he was no longer a judge.

The whole thing was funny for being incongruous. Nothing is funnier and more incongruous though than the hypocritical decision handed down by the highest court of the land.

Are the delays deliberate? It surely looks like it. When a judge sits on a case, the litigants in civil cases, through their lawyers, are forced to approach the judge for a favorable decision, of course for a fee.

In a criminal case the guilty party delays the proceedings sometimes for decades, again with the collusion of the judge. That drives the complainant to settle the case or drop it altogether. Meanwhile the judge makes money from the defense and, sometimes, from the conniving prosecution as well. It is not uncommon for him to get a cut from the settlement money too.

No wonder everybody who has had the misfortune of appearing in court gets to hate judges and lawyers and all those involved in the so-called dispensation of justice.

Of course, only the rich and powerful are accorded that opportunity.

The poor litigants, having nothing to offer the judge, are promptly sent to prison. Or failing to raise bail money, they simply own up to the crime, and guilt or innocence has nothing to do with it

Usually the crime government officials face, if they are charged at all, almost always involves theft of public funds or assassination of political rivals.

We will not enumerate the cases since most of them are known to the public anyway. However, we will go out on a limb to say that none of them have been resolved to put closure to society’s quest for justice.

Is it really that bad?

If the Philippine Medical Association had that batting average, we would have lynched all doctors a long time ago, realizing we had a better chance finding a cure by consulting the village shaman.

The Code of Kalantiaw, to extend the metaphor, is a better alternative to the justice system as we know it. Of course, we run the risk of executing an innocent man or woman from time to time, but that would not be as bad as letting hundreds, even thousands of murderers and thieves, loose—and electing them to rule over us.

The delay in the disposition of cases is only one symptom of our dysfunctional justice system. What riles people most is the rendering of unjust decision, for instance letting the guilty off the hook through legal technicality.

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