16 June 2012
New Chief Justice must have the people’s trust
Amidst the beeline for the post and the impending closure of nominations, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), a nationwide group of human rights lawyers, reiterated that the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines must have the trust of the people.
“Whether young or senior, man or woman, insider or outsider, old hand or upstart, what really matters ultimately is that the new Chief Justice should be able to inspire the trust, confidence and respect of the bar, the bench and most importantly, the general public that has been cynical and frustrated with our justice system for the longest time,” NUPL secretary-general Atty. Edre U. Olalia said.
NUPL emphasized that the new Chief Justice must be pro-people and the undisputed champion of human rights. It noted that the Chief Justice is the only head of a branch of the government that is appointed by one person. The head of the Executive, the President, is elected at large, while the heads of the Legislative, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House, are selected by their peers.
“One clear lesson from previous administrations is the danger a political and politicized court poses to our democracy. A Chief Justice, and worse, a Supreme Court that caters to personal or partisan rather than public interests chips away at the foundations of social equality and weakens social justice,” Atty. Olalia added.
“The new Chief Justice must not be a sycophant at any time. He or she should not be or turn out to be an adjunct of the Palace serving a new master this time. To be truly independent, the blurring lines of separation of powers must be rectified even as he or she must not be oblivious to social realities and the public interest,” he added.
NUPL also said that those groveling and salivating for the position should ipso facto be disqualified outright. “We reiterate that we are looking for a dignified statesman, not a politician. Candidates for the position must have unassailable character, and pass the stern standards already set by law,” Olalia said.
Section 7 (1) of Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution cites the character qualifications of a Justice of the Supreme Court: competent, independent, and with integrity and probity. In the process of confronting deep-seated problems with the legal system, the new Chief Justice is further expected to display intellectual prowess and conscientious scholarship.
He or she must have the necessary grit and determination to effect immediate reforms, including, among others: upholding and applying consistently the doctrine of political offenses by enjoining the charging of proper crimes or striking down the filing of false charges; stopping the abusive practice of mechanical substitution of real names for generic John/Jane Does in informations and warrants of arrest, and dismissing cases resulting from this; abandoning or reversing the Marcosian doctrine Ilagan v. Enrile that will make the writ of habeas corpus effective and useful; reforming and revising the remedy of the writ of amparo to foreclose obstacles and loopholes to its affectivity ; expediting the resolution of cases against human rights violators; studying the creation of special human rights courts to exclusively try and dispose of civil and criminal cases of human rights violations and implementing a special procedure for such purpose to make legal remedies simple, expeditious and accessible; and addressing the slow grind and unduly prolonged and cumbersome legal process.
In closing, the NUPL said “the Supreme Court cannot be the instrument of those who flout, bend or violate the law. It cannot be the fortress of the powerful and the mighty. Instead the Supreme Court, under a Chief Justice that has moral authority, must give justice in equitable measures, and with particular consideration for the poor and underprivileged, dispelling the jaded yet grounded view that those who have less in life actually have lesser in law.
Atty. Edre U. Olalia
NUPL Secretary General