Today is Monday, May 21, 2018

Fighting the Judiciary's Big 'C'

by: J. MDVidal

Our country has long been diagnosed as suffering from the Big “C”. In its recent annual report to the United States Congress, the US Trade Representative (USTR) described corruption in the Philippines as ‘pervasive’. Likewise, the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) ranked the Philippines as the most corrupt in Asia, with a rate of 9.4 on a scale of zero to ten, zero being the best possible score.

And, sad to say, the Judiciary was not spared from the present corruption hullabaloos. Its stature of being free from the onslaught of influence, interference, indifference and insolence; and being impervious to kinship, friendship and fellowship is put to a test due to a barrage of allegations of corruption, with many of the unconfirmed reports directed to the Court of Appeals.

But Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno is not taking these accusations sitting down. Determined to fight the Big “C” and prevent its spread in the judicial system, he summoned all CA Division Chairmen to brainstorm on this serious issue. Days later, to fully enforce the call for “an ethical judiciary that is above suspicion”, the Supreme Court en banc issued a resolution banning the employment of spouses of Justices of the CA, Sandiganbayan and Court of Tax Appeals, as coterminous workers.

Reforming the judiciary was not prompted only during the onset of these recent corruption controversies. The Highest Tribunal, through the years, has been trying to address reports of irregularities and has been taking unprecedented steps of sacking members of the Bar and the Bench who fell short of the standards required by the Canons of Judicial Ethics. Moreover, realizing that the big “C” cannot be totally eradicated by just punishing those who have been found guilty, Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. (Ret.) had instituted the Action Program for Judicial Reforms (APJR) as a way of strengthening judicial independence and integrity way back in the year 2000. The APJR prioritizes on the judges’ welfare and security and updates the judges’ legal knowledge on judicial education programs, and introduces reforms in the selection and qualification standards of new judges.

Reacting on the flak of negative publicity the judiciary is into, Chief Justice REYNATO S. PUNO positively responded, “Right now, proper control is in place to curb corruption in the judiciary, thus, we cannot say that the Judiciary is at risk.”

Admittedly, the Judiciary is facing a tough fight. But with all these sincere efforts to knock down, if not to knock out, the big “C”, the most important thing to do is for this branch of the government to go the distance.

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