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Most obvious reason justice system ‘ineffectual’

01:10 AM July 30, 2016

In his commentary, “Reforming our ineffectual justice system” (Opinion, 7/5/16), René Azurin wrote: “Those who’ve had occasion to engage the justice system in this country inevitably become aware of how cases can be made to drag on interminably and how decisions can be bought and sold.”

Very true. But among the reasons why our judiciary is so dysfunctional, Azurin missed the obvious: the Supreme Court and its vast network of incompetent lower courts.

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First of all, the Supreme Court has been the most guilty in terms of delay in the administration of justice. It takes its own sweet time, especially if the cases do not excite media attention. It holds itself above any accountability for the mess the justice system is in. Why even uncomplicated cases remain unresolved for more than 10 years is really baffling. It makes taking the law into one’s hands almost a welcome option.

Secondly, incompetence in the lower courts results in sloppy decisions which more often precipitate appeals or petitions for review. Those are the kinds of decisions that clog the dockets of the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. If only lower court judges were clearly made aware that they could be held administratively answerable for their gross neglect, ignorance or incompetence, that might really help improve the quality of thought and reasoning in their decisions.

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In general, lawyers are not dumb. They have studied the same law and jurisprudence. They know when a decision makes sense (which they accept) or simply sucks (which they at once bring up for appeal or review).

What happens in reality, however, is that even when the Supreme Court finds upon review that a lower court’s decision is palpably wrong, all it does is just reverse it and does nothing much else. A case in point: A decision based on some pieces of documentary evidence which the judge himself had earlier ruled to be inadmissible. A really dumb decision. The Court of Appeals agreed it was dumb. The Supreme Court also agreed and sustained the Court of Appeals—end of the 10-year-old case. But the erring judge was not even reprimanded, let alone punished, for compounding the troubles that ail the justice system. How then could he learn? Alas, he was even promoted to the Court of Appeals.

Discipline among the lower court magistrates will go a long way; but discipline among the Supreme Court justices themselves will go way much longer. The highest court of the land should set a shining example. And if the justices are too old  and/or too sick to catch up with their work, isn’t resigning or retiring early the most decent thing to do—for love of country? They should give way to  the younger ones to deal with the void they can no longer fill.

Or is kapit-tuko to the very end also the name of the game there?

—JANNO MARKO MONTECRISTO, [email protected]

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TAGS: courts, Justice System, Supreme Court
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