A Non-Theatrical Version of 'Anatomy of Corruption'; by Fr. RANHILIO CALLANGAN AQUINO, Ph.D., JurDr Head, Academic Affairs Office, Philippine Judicial Academy Supreme Court of the Philippines.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)

Manila Bulletin, October 6, 2002 | Go to article overview

A Non-Theatrical Version of 'Anatomy of Corruption'; by Fr. RANHILIO CALLANGAN AQUINO, Ph.D., JurDr Head, Academic Affairs Office, Philippine Judicial Academy Supreme Court of the Philippines.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)


THERE is now showing somewhere a play that goes by the rather quaint title Anatomy of Corruption. That will probably be our salvation as a people that we can write plays about our miseries, and enjoy them when dramatized on stage. I lack the talent to entertain. I have, however, mulled over the recurring charges of corruption in the judiciary as one intimately connected with courts in the Philippines and their workings and I will share my musings with heretics like me who might care for them.

The judiciary has, of late,

made a bid to be freed

from the strictures of the

Salary Standardization

Law. Considering that the

third branch of

government, as a whole,

receives hardly 2

percent of the national

budget, this was not too

unreasonable a position,

especially because the

entire nation knows of

legions of sinecures

more handsomely paid

In philosophy, hermeneutics has had a special appeal to me. In law school, I teach legal hermeneutics and try to veer from the wellworn path of statutory construction and its tired maxims and cliches. I have tried to lure my students into a more intrepid hermeneutic of the legal text. It is this same proclivity for hermeneutics that drives me to ask in what ways the nowfamiliar proposition - "The judiciary is corrupt" - is used.

It is certainly used to declare that some judges (or justices even) write decisions for a fee, and issue orders for a price, or for some consideration, other than their legal salaries and emoluments. Unfortunately this is where most anatomists of corruption in the judiciary stop. There is, however, another use of the expression - and almost as common. It is what a losing lawyer tells disappointed litigants to excuse himself from lapses, omissions or sheer stupidity in the handling of a case. When so used, it has hardly anything to do with the integrity of judges and of the judicial process. It has much to do with decadence in the Bar - a slur on the lawyer's exalted sobriquet as "officer of the court." It has as much to do with litigants who care little for law and right, who are prepared to blame everyone and everything for an adverse judgment, except their lack of legal title to a right claimed! There is yet a third use of the proposition. It is used by the officious in media who have assumed the airs of connoisseurs of everything - from the intricacies of juridical thought, to the convolutions of politics, the recondite formulas of economics, the maneuvers of military strategy and the pirouettes of ballerinas and their danseurs! It is used to give heightened flavor (and street-vending value) to what would be a rather simple "The court's decision was not what we expected" or to mask what should be a humbling "I do not grasp the finer points of this piece of jurisprudence!" Just when philosophers are starting to debate seriously the omniscience of God, more practitioners of media have convinced themselves of their own!

Conceding the validity of many cases of the first use of the proposition, the Supreme Court has been resolute, and to some of those disciplined, even harsh! Some are corrupt because they are shameless. For others, the temptation to corruption is inversely proportional to the pittance they receive as judges and justices. This we may call "the law of human frailty." This does not excuse them from failing the test of integrity when they fail but it does indict a system that refuses to make of a career on the Bench a more attractive proposition for the worthy and the competent. The judiciary has, of late, made a bid to be freed from the strictures of the Salary Standardization Law. Considering that the third branch of government, as a whole, receives hardly 2 percentof the national budget, this was not too unreasonable a position, especially because the entire nation knows of legions of sinecures more handsomely paid.

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A Non-Theatrical Version of 'Anatomy of Corruption'; by Fr. RANHILIO CALLANGAN AQUINO, Ph.D., JurDr Head, Academic Affairs Office, Philippine Judicial Academy Supreme Court of the Philippines.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)
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