No bribe-taker when no bribe-giver | Inquirer Opinion
With Due Respect

No bribe-taker when no bribe-giver

Together with Sen. Grace Poe and Rep. Leni Robredo, I addressed the “Integrity Summit” last week at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati. I was invited to speak on how to stop corruption and reform the judiciary. I began my address with two anecdotes:

Tale of two judges. Before the trial in a case began, the judge summoned the lawyers of the parties to his chambers.

He told them, “Compañeros, both of you surreptitiously bribed me. You, counsel for the plaintiff, gave me P250,000, while you, counsel for the defendant, sent me P200,000. I will not allow anyone of you to unduly influence me. So, I am returning P50,000 to you, counsel for the plaintiff. Now, after I have leveled the playing field, both of you can expect equal treatment from me.”

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Another judge was visited at his home by a practicing lawyer. “Compañero,” the magistrate boomed, “why are you here? Don’t you know it is unethical for a lawyer to speak with a judge outside the courtroom?”

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Meekly explained the lawyer: “Your Honor, I did not come here to speak with you about my pending case. I came here to sell you a brand-new Mercedes Benz that is now parked on your driveway.”

After peeping out the window to view the car, the judge retorted, “Ah, you came as a car salesman, not as a lawyer. How much is the car?” The enterprising lawyer whispered, “The price is P1,000, Your Honor.” The judge smiled and said, “In that case, I’ll buy two, one for me and one for my wife.”

These stories are of course anecdotal and meant to be jokes. Nonetheless, they demonstrate some of the witchcraft that may have impelled the Makati Business Club (MBC) and the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) to sponsor this Integrity Summit. The first joke shows the wrong way to level the playing field, and the second shows the no-way to justify a bribe.

How to stop corruption. Judges will not be bribed unless clients inveigle their lawyers to go beyond the outer limits of advocacy and soar to the stratosphere of corruption and malevolence. At times, lawyers are told by unscrupulous clients, “I do not care whether you know the law. My question is: Do you know the judge?”

I could really end my address now. I have already explained how the business community can stop corruption. Remember, there are no bribe-takers when there are no bribe-givers. However, I have been tasked by MBC president Ramon del Rosario Jr. to bore you with a long peroration on how to properly level the playing field and how to properly solve corruption, and help our nation prosper through judicial reforms.

Whenever judicial reform is the topic of discussion, I am always reminded of the comprehensive “Action Program for Judicial Reform,” or APJR, started by my esteemed predecessor, Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr., in 1998.

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The APJR was supported not only by the Philippine government but also by international aid institutions. It was so successful that the World Bank uploaded it in its website as a model for all developing countries applying for World Bank assistance.

ACID problems. During my term as chief justice, I continued the APJR with emphasis on what I call the ACID problems that corrode justice. Thus, during my incumbency, I announced my “Vision and Mission” as follows:

“I vow to lead a judiciary characterized by four Ins: Integrity, Independence, Industry and Intelligence—one that is morally courageous to resist influence, interference, indifference and insolence. I envision a judiciary that is impervious to the plague of ‘ships’—kinship, relationship, friendship and fellowship.

“I pledge to continue and strengthen the Supreme Court’s ongoing Action Program for Judicial Reforms with special focus on what I call the ACID problems that corrode justice in our country; namely, (1) limited Access to justice by the poor; (2) Corruption; (3) Incompetence, and (4) Delay in the delivery of quality justice.

“I look for competent and ethical lawyers who are responsible, dependable, and morally upright, and who courageously uphold truth and justice above everything else.

“I shall grant maximum financial and fringe benefits to our 26,000 employees nationwide from whom, in turn, I ask for three things:

(1) Dedication to duty, (2) Honesty in every way, and (3) full Loyalty to the judiciary, or DHL.

“All the foregoing visions and objectives must lead to the loftier goals of safeguarding the liberty and nurturing the prosperity of our people.

“The twin beacons of LIBERTY and PROSPERITY constitute my core judicial philosophy.”

To propel this philosophy, I convened the “Global Forum on Liberty and Prosperity” in Makati on Oct. 18-20, 2006, as my valedictory project prior to my retirement.

Led by the chief justices of Canada, Russia, France and several others, over 300 jurists, lawyers and law professors from all over the world attended this conference.

Unfortunately, my successors in office did not continue both Chief Justice Davide’s and my judicial reform initiatives. Consequently, the aid agencies discontinued their assistance. The World Bank deleted the APJR from its website.

Fortunately, the current Court saw the need for judicial reforms along the lines of the APJR and ACID, but with its own modifications and updates. Already, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other aid agencies have shown interest in helping.

For lack of space, I have to end here. But for those interested, my complete speech may be accessed at cjpanganiban.com, then click “Speeches.”

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TAGS: Artemio V. Panganiban, Bribe, Grace Poe, opinion, With Due Respect

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