Reforming Ourselves

MANILA, Philippines --- (Editor's note: There's a dire need for a bigger judicial office to monitor decisions of lower courts, as noted by the author.)

When corruption reaches alarming proportion involving theft or diversion of public funds, it's not the Sandiganbayan of 14 judges alone or the Ombudsman that should lead in putting behind bars persons with an irreversible lust for tax money. Big and petty corruption is committed by thousands of government employees in various agencies of the national and local government.

The right message but...

Removing a chief justice by impeachment will probably deliver the right message, but will not stop the habitually corrupt from engaging in a lifestyle long supported by public funds. Agencies like the BIR, BOC, DWPH, etc., still have employees who have hardened themselves over the years. As a rule they ignore threats of prosecution or stiff prison terms.

Reform as continuous process

If cases in hundreds of lower courts are not decided fast enough or within the period covered by the rules, utter neglect, not mere negligence, can effectively frustrate reforms started at the top.

Reform is a continuing process and reminder to all bureaucrats that efficiency, competence, and honesty on the job need to be done without benefit of force or threat of any degree. The top management of any department, bureau, commission, government-owned corporation, or office should lead the way in instituting reforms from the top down.

It's not easy to reverse attitudes and habits long supported by base ways for years.

Strict supervision of judges

How many officials in Manila have the main task of breathing down the necks of judges in the provinces, cities, and towns? Are judges asked to submit a list of decided/undecided cases on a regular basis, like every three months?

Justice habitually delayed

If 800 RTC judges have such reports, who will read and evaluate them and impose sanctions on the lazy bones? There are late statistics on this problem and will probably remain as figures or problems for years.

If undecided cases remain in a judge's courtroom beyond the allowable period - or indefinitely - this is ground enough for some form of censure or sanction. Of the hundreds of judges getting a low score on efficiency, only two or three of them get a slap on the wrist yearly as reminder of failures in their duties. (One such judge was dismissed, but the decision was served long after his death. This indicates lack of knowledge of a respondent judge's tenure or status in his position.) Did he continue to receive his pay check from Manila before the notice of his separation?


Café gossip calls for expanding the office of the Court Administrator, with a reminder that this office should not be used as the principal mouthpiece of the chief justice, but of the full court only. The chief justice is only one of the 15 decision makers on the court, and he should speak for himself if the subject involves his personal problem.

The practice of giving the Court Administrator a full-time job as spokesman for the court is against the basic principle of good/pragmatic management. The job of informing the public should be made part-time. Holding a press conference to explain court decisions is not necessary. This converts the court's spokesman into an apologist, without full power to speak for any of the justices or the full court itself.

Spreading confusion

The so-called TRO for former President Arroyo and party to travel created an unnecessary confusion when the Court Administrator told a hastily called press conference that the order was effective/executory immediately. This was disputed by one justice who fully understood the TRO: That it was subject to conditions, one of which was not met by Mrs. Arroyo before proceeding to the NAIA pre-departure area.

This unfulfilled condition moved the DOJ to hold the former president's departure, adding to more confusion. If the court spokesman had left the matter of effectivity to the Clerk of Court who was present at the deliberation, the heated exchange of words would have been avoided. (Comments are welcome at