On Selecting A Chief Justice

Manila Bulletin, August 3, 2012 | Go to article overview
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On Selecting A Chief Justice


MANILA, Philippines - As expected, the Judicial and Bar Council focused on what is perceived are the critical concerns in the Judiciary today - corruption, relationship with partner government agencies, justice for all, especially with regard to enhancing access by the poor, decongesting clogged dockets, and improving the system of incentives. Although some say that that there is nothing to heal, still many admit that the credibility of the judiciary to a large extent had suffered. That in fact, the new Chief Justice may have to take the role of a "healing" leader who can address what one described as a "wounded" Court.

Effectively facilitated by the 7-person JBC panel, the four-day proceedings drew out how each candidate viewed his or her role in meeting the many challenges. Just by examining the issues raised by the JBC, and the state of the judiciary, merely recruiting the "best and the brightest" for the various courts may not suffice. It will require upgrading of their capacities to keep up with the challenges of globalization and the new technologies, as well as harmonizing the tasks of all pillars of justice and reaching out to the various publics. It is enhancing cooperation with other branches of government within the principle of separation of powers. It has to be continually aware of the need to keep a balance between "judicial activism and judicial restraint," and "keeping away from interfering in the affairs of other branches of government." It is "making decisions on community-shared values," "ensuring equality of all before the law, but at the same time giving the poor guy a break." Humanizing the court means exploring all mechanisms that will be able to provide Juan de la Cruz adequate and appropriate justice - legal aid, information, affordable litigation costs, etc. It is being able to balance "confidentiality with transparency," vigilance in carrying out its constitutional mandate regarding settling controversies involving rights and "grave abuse of discretion.

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