The delay in the prosecution of PDAF cases, notwithstanding mounting public pressure, certainly brings to light the inability of our courts to respond swiftly and effectively in settling legal controversies. With more people being implicated as the plot thickens, one wonders when and how justice could finally be served.
This exposes the sad state of our justice system, which is characterized not only by the high cost of litigation, but also by delay, increased uncertainty and unfairness in the resolution of cases. If an issue as hugely significant as the pork barrel could not be handled properly, it is no surprise that ordinary cases suffer worse, unjustly dragging on for years before they are adjudicated. Of course, there are several factors that explain this, and most of those are not always attributable to the system and those who man it. In most cases, the parties themselves are responsible for said failures, given their propensity to circumventing the judicial processes to have their way.
In fairness to the Supreme Court, it has introduced innovative ways to re-engineer procedures in an attempt to make them better. One of these is the introduction of judicial affidavits, which are meant to facilitate conduct of trials. Another is the establishment of small-claims court, where parties in one hearing can resolve their conflicts, with finality, without any need for lawyer’s assistance. Meanwhile, the Court imposes the mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) for lawyers to guarantee their continued competence in the practice of the profession.
Unfortunately, these innovations hardly have any impact, not because they are not doable, but because these do not address the root cause: corruption. This, of course, is a bit ironic, because the very courts that legally address cases of corruption are themselves reportedly riddled with it . . . allegedly (no pun intended).
Certainly, it’s not just about hoodlums in robes but everyone involved in it—lawyers and their clients included. It’s not just the lure of money, but more importantly political pressures exerted upon the courts to sway their decisions. It’s not also just about incompetence, albeit it is a major cause of concern, but giving in to this system of patronage and accommodation that hears no evil and sees no crime.
It is an amalgam of things really, and these can only be sorted out if accountabilities are made. Sadly, the public is not vigilant in addressing judicial corruption as much as it is in attacking wrong doings in other government branches. Probably, this is because our magistrates are away from the spotlight most of the time, are not elected into office, and therefore, not expected to account for their acts the way our governors and congressmen do. The case of the former Chief Justice is an exception rather than a general rule, and in hindsight, looks to have been politically motivated.
With regard to the administration, and to a certain extent Congress, they would hardly zero in on or go after the judiciary because their counterparts in the Supreme Court are not perceived as political opponents. Making them liable does not serve any political purpose nor does it advance their interest. It is merely a waste of their time. They would rather exhaust their resources against those who threaten their respective seats, if only to preserve their hold onto power.
Such being the case, any reform will not come, unless those in the judiciary would initiate it, and unless the lawyers and the parties who deal with the courts would finally have the resolve to say ‘no’ to corruption.
Of course, it’s a long shot, if not almost impossible to happen. But it is what it is.
Atty. Edward P. Chico is the chair of the Commercial Law Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business, De La Salle University. He may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty and its administrators.