Manila, Philippines – It is the first time in Philippine history that the selection and procedures for the next Chief Justice have been put to public and media coverage in order to assure the people, transparency and accountability in such judicial milestone after the rigorous scrutiny of Former Chief Justice Renato Corona that led to his oust. Since then, starting from the first part of this process, wherein the Integrated Bar of the Philippines together with the JBC invited all the twenty-two nominees for the job in the IBP Forum to present their judicial agenda or reforms and judicial philosophy.
Now, the question is “Who is the best person for the post?” The JBC Public Panel Interview started yesterday to probe who best fits for the post and as an additional reference and standard for the President in the selection of the next Chief Justice.
We don’t expect the next Chief Justice to have the monopoly of all the attributes to be in the position but a CJ that is efficient and effective in the delivery of functions of the judiciary. What is more significant to consider is the assurance of judicial independence of the Court from external influence of other departments – executive and legislative, however, independence in the sense of institutional and decisional matters. These three departments are constitutionally equal, therefore, being supportive to each others’ functions and accountability must be observed in the long run. With all the possible changes and reforms as a result of this effort, we must avoid and get rid in creating a regime of austerity and marking malevolence that may possibly lead to institutional battle and abuse of powers of every department in benefit of personal interests and whims.
It is high time for the judiciary to control itself in maintaining its supreme function and fairness over the people and gain back the trust of the majority and enlighten the minds of the public that there is still hope for our judicial system. I am saying that maintaining utmost moral fiber, ethics and values is the primary component and bedrock principle in performing the functions of the institution; real emphasis is needed and long-term observance and monitoring must be at place. Furthermore, the reality dictates us that decisional stability of our courts may sometimes be in question or in doubt, cases where it is obviously evident that judges can already arrive with their decisions but due to administrative procedures and complex adherence to the law, it takes us decades before we serve justice.
Meanwhile, it creates a ripple effect leading to the loss of confidence of the Filipino people. What we need is to arrive with genuine reforms and agenda for the judiciary. This is a manifestation of societal problem, when graft and corruption is the standing practice of all the people who compose our judiciary and indirectly creates a stereotypical description of the Philippine judicial system that is corrupt, problematic and hopeless.
The only remedy that the judicial branch of the government can do now is to show the people that our judiciary is capable of substantive delivery of its function. We always hear people in power that we must uphold accountability to the sovereign Filipino people as a constitutional mandate, but do we see and feel fulfillment from this promise? This is now where the challenge starts; I believe that every time our President appoints a new Chief Justice, it illustrates not just a new judicial administration but a collegial body showing off its strengths regardless of differences.