A judge is expected to stay fair, firm and cunning like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a team. All the judges in the land are privy to Rule 1.03 of the Code of Judicial Conduct which states that, “A judge should be vigilant against any attempt to subvert the independence of the judiciary and should forthwith resist any pressure from whatever source intended to influence the performance of official functions.” If judge so-and-so is bias toward this-and-that influential political faction and patron/s, to whom would the non-partisan and impoverished citizens rely and trust in order to get equity and justice?
Without accusing anybody, a corrupt judge for me is not only the one who trades rulings for cash. Aside from cash, it could also be in the form of perks or material benefits in exchange of his/her judgement. But nonetheless, corruption in the judiciary may come in subtle but equally destructive form. When he or she does these things, big or small, petty or grand, intentionally, though what motivates him/her is another issue, she or he still commits a crime. But over and above, we must dare ourselves sue them for anything short of this is trial by publicity. Or mere politicking.
Specifically, I was told by my lawyer friends that a dishonest judge in technical terms can ignore evidence, twist rules and procedure, obstruct the record, retaliate, manufacture facts or ignore others, allow infirm claims or dismiss valid ones, deny admission of evidence prejudicial to the favored party, suborn perjury, mischaracterize pleadings, engage in ex parte communication and misapply the law, among other things. Do our judges in mind guilty in any of these? That I do not personally know. Positively put, the most honorable judge whenever s/he decides for a case, s/he is solely accountable to the Law and to God and not to the motives of any mortal.
It was then President Joseph Estrada in his June 30, 1998 inaugural speech as the 13th Philippine President referred to those judges as "hoodlums in robes”. All I know is there’s a 2005 survey among Philippine lawyers and judges nationwide showed that 49 % knew of a case in which a judge was bribed but said they failed to act because they could not prove the charges. In 2008, the Berlin-based Transparency International has also ranked the Philippine judiciary as among the most corrupt in the world and on the same level as the justice systems in Rwanda, Russia and Nepal. The situation is alarming. And it is more alarming if politicians make them just pawns sacrificing the integrity of the whole justice system. Having mentioned such, immediately we remember Chief Justice Renato Corona for allegedly amassing ill-gotten wealth as reported in this news item and all those nameless and faceless hoodlums in robes.
Aside from the Supreme Court on swift administration of justice against erring judges, the citizenry, even at the local level could place their share. The initial step we should take locally is to establish an independent body (especially composed of faith-based leaders) as our channel of salvation from judicial corruption. A province-wide group to encourage attorneys, judges, public officials and the media to perform their duties with ethics and responsibility, and promote laws that would discourage them from abusing special privileges. Concerned citizens, non-partisan groups should be organized and established like those we find in cyberspace like THIS site and THIS too.
Judges are our servants and taxpayers pay them to administrate our laws. Aside from being fair, firm and cunning like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and to move from popular culture to historical characters, like Fathers Gomez, Burgos and Zamora or Gomburza, their heroism must have a profound effect on many Filipinos....