Do not do your job
Once again the country’s judiciary finds itself entangled in controversies, with certain sectors voicing—rather openly—suspicion of corruption among judges.
In the business community, there is talk about how easy it can be to secure temporary restraining orders. Businessmen are now even able to put price tags on these TROs.
From what I have gathered, a group in the House of Representatives is also setting up a research project to study the problems in the judiciary.
One theory goes that the present system of appointing judges may have some serious flaws.
Anyway, foremost of the high-profile cases tarnishing the image of the entire judiciary—unfairly, it seems—is the criminal case filed by the Department of Justice against real estate developer Delfin Lee, main stockholder of Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp.
Lee’s company reportedly obtained as much as P6.6 billion worth of take-out loans from the Home Mutual Development Fund, more popularly known as Pag-ibig Fund. The DoJ alleged that a good number of the supposed buyers of Lee’s company (i.e. borrowers from Pag-ibig) turned out to be fictitious.
According to our sources inside Pag-ibig, before media exposed the alleged scam, the fund was already set to release another batch of P6.6 billion in take-out loans, on top of the third batch of more than P1.5 billion.
The court in Pasig, nevertheless, issued a TRO against the DoJ in the syndicated estafa case against Lee and his company and then even followed up the TRO with an actual injunction order. Permanent!
In effect, this is the order of the Pasig trial court to government: Do not do your job!
Another case was of course the reported land-grabbing scandal in Quezon City, in which the court ruled that thousands of hectares of well-populated areas in the city actually belonged to a single claimant. The residents of the area filed complaints against the judge before the Supreme Court for possible reprimand.
There lies one possible flaw in the system, at least according to certain members of the House: It is all up to the Supreme Court, which unfortunately does not have complete control over the appointment of judges.
In other words, those congressmen are taking note of the absence of accountability on the part of those who appoint the judges. They are the members of the Judicial Bar Council, or the JBC.
For one, the congressmen note that the system allows lawyers to apply directly with the JBC to become judges. Congressmen have found this questionable.
For instance, how does the JBC check the track record of the applicants? Does the JBC have the means to conduct a thorough background check, in the first place? When the JBC recommended judges falter, does the council get the blame?
In other words, there is no accountability on the part of the appointing power.
Now, what can the members of the House—or even the Senate for that matter—do with the JBC and their theory regarding accountability?
The JBC is a constitutional body; it was created by the 1987 Constitution.
* * *
Last week, the DoJ decided to create another investigating panel in the Ortega case, in effect reopening the murder case against former Palawan governor, Joel Reyes, his brother Coron town Mayor Marjo Reyes, former Marinduque governor, Bong Carrion, and three others.
The cases involve the murder of Gerry Ortega, a radio block-timer in Palawan, who was said to be espousing environmental issues, including the anti-mining movement in the province.
Earlier, the first DoJ panel decided—consistently for three times—to dismiss the cases against Reyes and the others for insufficient evidence.
Basically, the DoJ panel found that the lone witness against Reyes lacked credibility, his statements filled with contradictions, aside from being uncorroborated.
The DoJ panel considered the lone witness as a polluted source, a shady character who had pending cases for murder and theft.
On the other hand, Reyes presented witnesses in Camarines Sur Gov. Luis Raymond Villafuerte and former undersecretary and now RPN chair Tonypet Albano.
Only a few days before the DoJ in effect decided to reopen the case against Reyes, the same DoJ denied the motion to reopen the investigation for failure to comply with the time prescription.
Word is going around in Palawan that some political and business groups were behind the massive media campaign against Reyes regarding the Ortega case. Other groups were said to have joined the campaign. It thus seems the DoJ is under pressure.
* * *
In Pasig City, Mayor Roberto Eusebio has put up the first and only LGU-run intervention center for minors in conflict with the law. I should know; I attended the inauguration last week.
Anyway, the project was meant to solve some problems in the city that the RA 9334, also known as the Pangilinan Law (after Sen. Francisco Pangilinan), or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.
The law followed the Unicef campaign to remove any criminal liability for those below 15 years of age.
But five years after the law came into effect, the Department of Interior and Local Government noted a serious defect in it: Criminal syndicates were using minors.
Now, when the police apprehended the minors, they simply turn over the offenders to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, or the DSWD.
The Pangilinan Law requires the DSWD to do “diversion and intervention program” for such offenders of minor age, supposedly to stop them from becoming so-called repeat offenders.
The problem is that, years ago, the functions of the DSWD had be devolved to the LGUs such as the Pasig city government.
The local DSWD units hardly have the means to implement the intervention program. In the first place, they do not have the facilities.
And so in Pasig, the mayor and his wife decided to take action by putting up the intervention center called “Bahay Aruga” and “Bahay Pag-asa.” As far as I know, it is the only one in the metropolis, or perhaps even in the entire country.
What happens to the juvenile offenders in other places?
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.