The Supreme Court (SC) is taking a firm stance against corruption and has made important rulings not only to develop a stable and self-reliant economy but also to build governmental integrity.
This was among the key points presented by Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe in a legal forum at the Philamlife Tower in Makati City (Metro Manila) on Thursday.
Bernabe cited the High Court’s ruling declaring unconstitutional the Priority Development Assistance Fund and Disbursement Acceleration Program.
She said the ruling was meant to achieve governmental accountability, which in turn would build positive investment attitudes.
“The Philippines is taking [steps]toward transforming investment attitudes and contributing to our robust business climate. Consistent [with]its rules, the Supreme Court has really become more than the conventionally passive observer of the qualms… It is showing not only a greater understanding of its rules and the dynamics of the socio-economic life of the nation but is boldly taking steps to act wisely upon that knowledge and become within its limited sphere of involvement and influence a catalyst for change,” Bernabe explained.
She said the SC is ensuring that legitimate claims and opportunities for progress be fairly accorded to all to realize economic goals.
Among judicial reforms that the High Court has been working on is to address the alleged culture of the business community in using the judiciary for excessive temporary restraining orders (TROs) and reconsiderations as a form of harassment.
“Judges should supposedly really study the applications for TRO thoroughly whether to issue them or not. We already have laws that prohibit lower court judges from issuing temporary restraining orders and probably that is one way of addressing this issue,” Bernabe said, noting that there are several prohibitions on TROs for infrastructure projects and insurance cases, among others.
She added that the reform initiatives should be taken holistically.
“[Reforms] will not work without the cooperation of lawyers. If we have lawyers who bribe judges, if we have lawyers who consent to the delay [in resolving cases], and if we have lawyers who do not appeal from the injustice ruling of the court, it will be hard for us to take action on it,” Bernabe said.
“The platform of social change must start with the non-negotiable policy of not tolerating bribery in any form,” she added.
Meanwhile, the magistrate also proposed an increase in salaries of government employees.
“One of the reforms that should be taken into account is the increase of the salary of government employees to make them more competitive or at least at par [with that of]the employees in the private sector because through that way, the government will be able to hire more competent professionals,” she said.
The SC is willing to further expand the jurisdiction of special commercial courts to cover high impact business rulings and strategic economic cases, Bernabe added.
On a lighter note, Bernabe believes women are more likely to initiate judicial reforms because “they’re more focused than men.”
She noted that Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales were all involved in judicial reforms since the 1990s.