SPEECH: What ails our justice system? Corruption, Delay and Incompetence

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(Speech of Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, former Senate President, during the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Misamis Oriental Chapter Testimonial Dinnerat the Palladium, Mallberry Hotel, Limketkai Center, Cagayan De Oro City on 03 August 2018)

Atty. Eddie Cuaresma, President of the IBP Misamis Oriental Chapter and the other officers of the IBP, newly appointed justice and judges, prosecutors, clerks of court, fellow workers in government, fellow lawyers, ladies and gentlemen, my kababayans,maayong gabii kaninyong tanan.

Thank you for inviting me to be a guest at your testimonial dinner to honor the newly appointed and elected lawyers to positions in government as well as the new members of the bar. We can say that tonight’sdinner is a send-off party as we wish our friends bon voyage on the new journey they are about to undertake in their lives.

Government Service

Some of our fellow lawyers whom we honor tonightare about to embark on a career in government service either as judges, prosecutors, clerks of court or lawyers in government and public office.

We are at once reminded of the oft repeated statement that a public office is a public trust. Also at the top of our minds are the noble aspirations of public servants which have been enshrined in our Constitution: “Public officers and employees must, at all times, be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.”

This is an entirely different path from your previous experiences in private practice. Now, the shoe is on the other foot. I am of the opinion that those of us in public service should take the opportunity that has been given to us to reverse the image of “corruption in government”; where favors and decisions could be bought and officials could be bribed.

Only the best and the brightest should be in the government service! If this is followed, then I am sure we will be able not only to lessen this image but to eradicate it all together as well.

I am sure that in your own private practice you have encountered the evil face of corruption in some form or another.

A group of lawyers who talk about their experiences over drinks would inevitably lead to some talk about this and that official being corrupt. Now that you are to embark on a life of public service, you should take care that you do not end up as the topic of one of those conversations.

The ills of our justice system can, in one way or the other, be traced to three root causes: corruption, delay, and incompetence. By addressing these root causes, we improve our justice system and make our beloved country a better place to live in.

Corruption in the justice system is like a spider’s web. Take care that you do not get caught in this web because you will get stuck and never be able to escape.

Another common complaint about our justice system is delay.  Delay is often used as an excuse by unscrupulous persons to ask for bribes or padulas. Nothing of the sort should be countenanced by us.  While a part of the problem is the huge amount of cases filed every day and the lack of courts to handle them, lawyers should also take part of the blame for being willing accomplices to the problem. A popular joke of lawyers who appear in court is that they are ready – ready to reset! This mindset of lawyers to procrastinate, to postpone, to ask for an extension snowballs into the huge problem of delay in our court system.

The “day in court” requirement of due process has been joked to now really mean, a decade in court.

As lawyers in the public service, we should have a reasonable sense of urgency – to strive for a speedy disposition of justice without sacrificing due process of law. To achieve a healthy balance of these two concepts is the hallmark of a “mature” justice system, which is a justice system appreciated, trusted, and relied upon by the people.

As lawyers who are public servants, we have to serve the people competently and with integrity.

We are not just government lawyers! We are the best and the brightest who got appointed to government service. We are being paid with the taxpayer’s hard-earned money. We should give to the taxpayer every centavo of his money back by way of excellent service.

When we report for work, on time, we should be prepared for the work to be done. As lawyers in public service we should have a hunger for further knowledge and information. Aside from keeping ourselves abreast of the latest rules and jurisprudence, we should also keep ourselves abreast of current affairs as we do not exist in a vacuum.

Finally, we should aspire to perform our duties with integrity.  Many believe that integrity and character cannot be taught; that they are set at an early age and cannot be changed later in life.

I do not believe this. I firmly believe that character and integrity can be taught and can be changed. People can be taught not only to actbetter but to be better.

I also believe in second chances. A person may have committed a mistake in the past, but for as long as there is good faith sincere commitment not to do it again, then we should be willing to give this person not only the benefit of doubt but another chance to prove his worth.

There is this popular definition of a judge or justice of the court that he should be “like Caesar’s wife”, someone who is above all suspicion. This should not be true only for judges or justices but for all public servants. Our conduct as public officers should be such that not even a whiff of suspicion of any impropriety has been entertained by anyone about us.\

These are not lofty aspirations. These are the norms of conduct which we must live by.

New Lawyers

And don’t think I have forgotten about our new lawyers. These norms that guide the conduct of our new public servants also apply to you.

This is because as lawyers, you are officers of the court and are the partners in our justice system of our judges, prosecutors, public attorneys and government lawyers. As young practitioners, you share equally in our burden to improve our justice system.

As young lawyers, always strive to win your case on the merits. Infect our jaded brethren in the profession with your love for the law so that they may somehow rediscover a passion for justice and excellence.

Legal Profession

For all of you who are here tonight, remember always that the practice of law is a noble profession and not a business. More so for those of us in the public service, we should not measure the success of our law practice by the wealth of material things we have accumulated.  Rather it should be measured by the good name and reputation for fairness and integrity we have earned for ourselves in the service of our countrymen.

Cause Of Justice

According to Alexander Hamilton“the first duty of society is justice.”

I fully concur with him!

Daghang problema sa atong nasud.

I am of the belief that most of the ills that plague our country today have their roots in our “challenged” justice system.

I also believe that if we focus first on what ails our justice system, and solve these, then we also solve in the process a lot of our nation’s problems. Not all, but a lot of them.

Our country needs justice! Justice is the runway from which our nation can take off to greater heights of prosperity, harmony, and happiness. Let us focus on it, let us pursue it, let us be overly protective of it. Let us all be obsessed with justice.

Our noble profession is the one which protects and promotes justice. Let us therefore all work together to safeguard and enhance our profession by acting nobly, honorably, honestly, and professionally.

Now that we are friends, I am offering the services and resources of my Senate office to be the partner of the IBP Misamis Oriental Chapter in programs and projects which pursue the cause of justice. Just tell me what you have in mind on how to improve the Philippine Justice System. Let us be imaginative. Let us be bold and radical. Let us start thinking outside of the box!

Vision

Finally, let us be the productive citizens and the positive force for change that will lead us to achieving our vision of a Philippine society which is just and fair, which saves and shares, which is scientific and objective, safe and peaceful, educated and healthy, democratic, and which is, most of all, happy and free, with overflowing love of God and country!

Daghang salamat kaninyong tanan ug mabuhi ang Pilipinas! Mabuhi ang IBP-Misamis Oriental Chapter!

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