June 2, 2012
Removing the Chief Justice is just the first step to instituting reforms in the Philippine judiciary. According to Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, a lawyer and formerly chair of the Senate justice committee, the urgent next steps to are to convene the Judicial Executive Legislative Advisory and Consultative Council (JELACC) and to push for budgetary support in order to institute reforms in the judiciary.
“When a new Chief Justice assumes office, the President should convene the JELACC and map out budgetary support for modernizing the justice system,” he says. “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, a brainchild of Pangilinan, 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.
Senator Pangilinan stressed the need to invest in reforms in the judiciary, pointing out that 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,” Pangilinan points out.
“We cannot have a first-world system of justice with a third-world budgetary allocation.”
He adds, “We need to create more courts and to address the huge backlog of cases that has causes 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,” Pangilinan cites. “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.”
Furthermore, Pangilinan points out the need for a more strategic look at how reforms in the judiciary ought to be implemented. He says, “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.”