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What for is the covenant?

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:48:00 10/04/2008

Filed Under: Judiciary (system of justice), Graft & Corruption

Justices of the Court Of Appeals signed last Sept. 14 a ?covenant? in which they committed to ?repair the damage caused? by the bribery scandal linked to the case of Manila Electric Co. versus Government Service Insurance System. They vowed to ?prove our detractors wrong ... show them we are not the kind of magistrates we are now perceived to be.?

The covenant commits to:

? Creation of a one-stop shop that will handle the filing of cases, payment of docket fees, follow up of cases, etc.

? Electronic raffling of cases

? Revision of the Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals

? Designation of a retired Supreme Court justice as Ombudsman for the Court of Appeals; and

? Case-load reduction.

As if a pending court case were like a routine government contract, the justices said ?the one-stop-shop is intended to reduce the irregularities by minimizing the number of agencies that a litigant would have to go to in filing and following up a case.?

As if machines alone generated public trust, they said ?the raffling of cases will become electronic to make sure that there will be no more manipulation in assigning cases to justices.?

As if technical rules are the fountainhead of true justice, they promised that the Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals would be studied and amendments would be proposed.

The question is, why limit the same only to the Court of Appeals? What about the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, the Court of Tax Appeals, and the lower courts per region? Why not apply the Ombudsman experiment to all judicial regions of the country?

Chief Justice Reynato Puno, with his usual spiritual flavor, stated that ?the ?touching? covenant could be achieved through moral renewal,? that ?together we shall arise, overcome and emerge victorious, so is your invocation of Gods grace ...?

The problem with mankind, Filipinos or otherwise, is that in times of trouble they invoke God as their refuge even with respect to events and issues that are not of His own making.

Moral renewal, yes. But are written technical rules of procedures, computers and infrastructures enough to achieve it? Do justices and lawyers live the precepts of moral enlightenment or is their livelihood ruled by greed and pride, form and externalities, hypocrisy and popularity? That is why I listen to the following words of the Chief Justice with a grain of salt: ?I cannot but concur with you that we need moral renewal in this struggle to cleanse the judiciary. It is but right that the first component of our covenant is moral enhancement. This is a recognition that our legal universe revolves around the sun of morality.?

All right, Mr. Justices. Let?s get down to hard and ethical work. Less talk, please. Produce results.

MANUEL J. LASERNA JR., Unit 15, Star Arcade, CV Starr Avenue, Philamlife Village, Las Pias City

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