May 5, 2009

Press Release
February 28, 2009




On the US State Department Report



Independent senator and judicial reforms advocate Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan reiterated his earlier calls for a “summit on the rule of law”, in light of a recently released US State Department report on the state of graft and corruption in the country.


“Let us acknowledge that there are huge gaps in our judicial system that need to be addressed. Let us not turn a blind eye on these grave matters and, instead, work to resolve these issues swiftly,” Kiko said.


News reports have identified some of the issues stated in the US report, including: failed implementation of criminal penalties for official corruption, enabling government officials to “(engage) in corrupt practices with impunity”; denial of the right to public information; the number of extrajudicial killings by “both state security forces and anti-government insurgents”; and the “common” incidences of violence against women, abuse of children, child prostitution, trafficking in persons, child labor, and ineffective enforcement of workers’ rights; among other human rights violations.


The Supreme Court itself has admitted to the “slow pace” of the country’s judicial system even as key reforms are already being undertaken. Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, however, asks the US State Department to “show proof” of these claims.


Kiko, on the other hand, acknowledges some key areas for judicial reforms.


“Our conviction rates are dismal. The delay in the disposition of cases undermines respect for the rule of law. We must reduce the average case life span of six years to two, three years,” he suggested.


“Lengthy court processes makes witnesses to crime and corruption vulnerable to threats and intimidation by powerful individuals and syndicates,” he also pointed out.


Kiko also echoed the US State Department report findings that “”The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.”


He said, “We must punish more and punish swiftly. The Supreme Court must press hard in reviewing and revising the rules of court to prevent dilatory motions and to limit appeals in order to speed up the resolution of cases.”

 “Fear and respect for the rule of the law begins with the swift punishment of the guilty,” Kiko emphasized.