SC Justices Discuss Reforms and Updates in Law; Make Strong Statement against Corruption
February 18, 2023
Corruption in the government, updates in law, and judicial reforms were the matters that the Supreme Court Justices discussed before some 3,200 lawyers during the 19th National Convention of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) held at SMX Convention Center, Davao City on February 16, 2023.
Senior Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, the first to speak among the Justices, made a personal call to everyone to report to the Supreme Court, through the Office of the Chief Justice, any retired member of the Judiciary, including retired Justices, who may be involved in corruption.
“With leave of the Chief Justice, I now send a very clear message. We have the greatest respect for the retired Justices and judges from our Judiciary. Many of them are leading upright lives. But I now make it very clear, being part of this Court for the past decade and knowing my colleagues: no retired Justice of the Supreme Court has control of any member of the Court, let alone a majority of the Court,” said Senior Associate Justice Leonen.
“Should any of them imply… Should any of those that came from the Judiciary imply that they can facilitate the outcome of a case pending in our court, you are obliged to report them to us through the Office of the Chief Justice. This applies to any former member of the Judiciary who approaches you—be it a judge, former judge, a Justice of an appellate court, or even the Supreme Court and who implies that they can facilitate the outcome of any case, you are obligated to report otherwise it would be likely that you will be considered complicit,” said Senior Associate Justice Leonen,
He stressed that “corruption in our government still exists” and that it is “a significant factor in engendering inequality in our society.” He reiterated that a “public office is always a public trust” and that “public office requires services that are executed for the public interest. It is not done to extort or favor those who are already wealthy.
He elaborated by saying that the statement that corruption exists is validated not only by the stories that come out of media but also by cases decided by the Supreme Court which he said “are replete with real situations that reveal the schemes to cheat our people.” He added that the lead experiences of ordinary Filipino will also affirm this reality.
Senior Associate Justice Leonen said that impartiality suffers when corruption infects courts. “Any court that is corrupt becomes an instrument only of those in power. It will maintain the status quo. It will favor those who have resources or forced those who have none to commit other crimes just to be able to corrupt judges and court personnel,” he stressed.
“Corruption weakens the rule of law. And therefore, the confidence of our people in government,” Senior Associate Justice Leonen warned.
As for initiatives taken by the Judiciary to counter corruption, it had created in 2019 the Judiciary Integrity Board (JIB) which is tasked to investigate malfeasance of Judges and Court Officials. The Supreme Court has recently also ramp up decisions in administrative cases resulting in the dismissal of Judges and court officials, disbarment of lawyers, and even criminal conviction.
Also pursuant to the SPJI, the Supreme Court will hold a Summit to finalize the proposed lawyer’s Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability. The Court also has plans of revisiting the Code of Judicial Conduct.
Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo then delivered his keynote message where he discussed the Court’s Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations (SPJI) 2022-2027 and reiterated his call for the IBP to support the SPJI.
“If the Court is to succeed in its reforms, it needs the support of all stakeholders…and it is in this regard that I hope the IBP will move forward by advocating plans and promoting activities in line with the Court’s SPJI, said Chief Justice Gesmundo.
The SPJI is the Court’s blueprint of action plan to address institutional challenges using four guiding principles: Timely and Fair Justice, Transparent and Accountable Justice, Equal and Inclusive Justice, and Technologically Adaptive Management. It targets three outcomes: Efficiency, Innovation, and Access.
The Chief Justice reminded the members of the legal profession to embrace and adapt to technology to remain relevant. “We must find ways to not only adjust to new technologies, but also optimize and maximize their use, with the end of improving the dispensation of justice,” he stressed.
He also expressed his gratitude to the IBP for supporting the Court’s previous projects especially during the pandemic which included video conference hearings and the first ever digitalized Bar Examinations, among others. He also cited the IBP’s cooperation in the continuous improvement of procedural rules through its active participation in the various Supreme Court sub-committees and technical working groups on revision.
Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa, for his part, also expressed gratitude to the IBP for its help during the recently concluded professional licensure exams for lawyers.
Justice Caguioa said that the IBP helped in disseminating the survey that served as basis for the Bar syllabus he began his work as Chairperson of the 2022 Bar Examinations.
He stressed that the 2022 Bar Examinations, more than the need to innovate its modalities, “is meant to determine whether a law graduate has learned enough law to allow him or her to be admitted to the actual practice of law.” He added that it was carefully designed to assess the Bar candidate’s understanding of fundamental legal knowledge and jurisprudence and his or her basic skills necessary for an entry-level lawyer.
Associate Justice Jhosep Y. Lopez, on the other hand, gave “Updates in Criminal Law” as he cited several decisions of the High Court.
Lastly, Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh Vice Chairperson of the Sub-Committee for the Revision of the Code of Professional Responsibility discussed some of the provisions of the proposed Revised Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability. She also thanked the IBP for being one of the Court’s solid and constant partners during the Ethics Caravan held in Cebu City, Davao City, Naga City, Baguio City, and the National Capital Region.
Also in attendance at the Convention, which coincides with the IBP’s 50th year anniversary, were Associate Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando, Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier, Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul B. Inting, Associate Justice Rodil V. Zalameda, Associate Justice Mario V. Lopez, Associate Justice Samuel H. Gaerlan, Associate Justice Japar B. Dimaampao, Associate Justice Jose Midas P. Marquez, and Associate Justice Antonio T. Kho, Jr.