Judicial reforms good for business

Zoilo ‘Bingo’ Dejaresco IIIONE of the top seven reasons foreign business investors still skip the Philippines is partly because of our slow, incompetent and corrupt justice system. It is a pity because these are the kind of investments that boost the economy, create jobs and make growth inclusive.

Many countrymen go abroad, exasperated with our judicial system here or they  join the National People’s Army, an armed rebel group, in search of equitable justice or hire gunmen to settle scores or address a grievance that the regular justice system cannot deliver.

In many cases, justice is delayed and some presumably guilty folks buy or cause the witnesses and pieces of evidence to disappear from the face of the earth. Other witnesses die of old age, while their cases tarry like forever. They buy time with clever lawyers as the guilty plan their escape from justice or change their physical appearance or make the police reverse their original report and claim the original witnesses did so under duress.

Or, as most lawyers would admit, pay off the prosecutors, judges, the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan jurors at a cost less expensive than the final adverse outcome against them. The corrupt stretch or protract the legal process, while they sell their properties, close their bank accounts and shift ownership of corporate shares to dummies and relatives to escape confiscation by tax autorities or the courts.

On the other hand, a financially poor suspect rots in jail for not having the resources to post bail. Some inmates with unresolved cases have served time in jail far longer than the actual time if  they were finally convicted and sentenced. Sad but true.

Some justices involve themselves in purely economic tussles that far exceed their competence and jurisdiction, for the funds of it.

Are not all of the above all too familiar to us Filipinos living in this country?

Fortunately, the present Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is not about to be lackeys of anyone. Their principled stand against the PDAF and the DAP meant they can go eyeball to eyeball with the two other co-equal but separate branches of government, which are the Legislature and the Executive.  And, last week, they were even more serious as they sacked an associate justice of the Sandiganbayan for being chummy with detained Janet Lim-Napoles over overpriced military helmets. The latter’s husband, an ex-military man, is still at large.

“Justice, indeed, is truth in action.” And, while the life of a man and his liberty could hang in the balance, delayed justice in this country is more of the rule rather than the exception.

Thus, we welcome the recently launched  “Continuous Trial System” for criminal cases piloted in 26 courts in Manila, Makati and Quezon City for six months. They will hold trial continuously for select cases daily until they are ready for judgment.

If they succeed, this new model of adjudication will be replicated all over the nation in an unprecedented first step to declog courts and jails, and allow the blind Lady Justice swiftly to prevail. They hope to create justice zones all over the country, where each party to the case agrees to move for its swift resolution.

The SC is asking support from the Judiciary to rise to the occasion and bust open dilatory tactics of lawyers and have the political will for a speedy adjudication and do scholarly pretrials, such that the unnecessary witnesses and documentation are already excluded. The Public Attorneys Office and the prosecutors must have exceeded the norms of due diligence and make every day in court count.  They aim to reduce the over four years average time for cases to resolve to only 90 days. Isn’t making of that goal itself already a modern-day miracle?  To be continued


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