From left to right: lawyers Ernesto Arellano, Neri Colmenares, Chel Diokno, Sonny Matula, Joan Sheelah Nalliw and Erin Tañada.
Philstar.com/Gaea Katreena Cabico
Lawyer candidates agree Philippine justice system is broken
Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - April 12, 2019 - 6:43pm

MANILA, Philippines — The state of the country’s judicial system is “broken,” lawyers who are seeking Senate seats in the May midterm elections said in a forum Friday.

Lawyers Ernesto Arellano, Neri Colmenares, Chel Diokno, Sonny Matula, Joan Sheelah Nalliw and Erin Tañada said this in a town hall meeting with legal professionals at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines office in Pasig City.

Diokno, a human rights lawyer and founding dean of De La Salle College of Law, said the broken judicial system is the reason why he filed his certificate of candidacy.

He cited the vacancies, disconnect between police and prosecution, lack of judicial accountability and transparency as the problems in the country’s legal system.

“Ang paniniwala ko ang pagkabaluktot ng hustisya sa ating bayan ang pinakamalaking hadlang sa pag-asenso ng bayan, pag-angat ng buhay ng mga Pilipino. Hindi natin malulutas ang kahirapan, corruption, 'di natin mahihikayat ang foreign investors kung baluktot ang justice system natin,” Diokno, who is running under the Otso Diretso slate, said.

He added: “If we want to bring back ang tiwala ng taumbayan sa sistema ng hustisya, dapat tayong magkaroon ng judicial accountability at transparency.”

For Makabayan Coalition bet Neri Colmenares, the justice system is “definitely” broken, citing anti-people laws, inaccessibility of legal services and lack of mechanisms for accountability.

“Impunity reigns. That’s why the moment somebody commits a crime, they get away with it, broken po ang justice system natin,” Colmenares said.

Arellano, a labor leader, lamented that justice system is crooked as it favors the powerful while it is against the poor.

Nalliw said that the judicial system in the Philippines is more focused on criminal aspect.

“Legal and justice system una pa lang ang ating is so focused on criminal aspect. Nakalimutan na natin ‘yung social justice, restorative justice. And here comes also ecological justice  napakaraming justice system na kelangang aralin,” she said.

Amending broken justice system

While they agreed that the country’s justice system is indeed broken, some Senate aspirants said that everyone must face the reality to fix it.  

“We all agree here that the justice system is broken. Ang tanong, do we recognize it as broken and are we willing to fix it? Kasi matagal na itong problema ito,” Tañada said.

He added: “There has to be a recognition that there is something broken in order for us to fix it. And if we do not face the fact, hindi natin maayos ang problema na ito: problema sa vacancy, problema sa kakulangan ng prosecutions, sa clogged dockets sa masyadong maraming kasong hinahandle ng PAO para sa mga mahihirap na akusado.”

Matula, also a labor leader, is still hopeful that the broken justice system can be reformed if the “determination to succeed is strong enough.”

2019 MIDTERM ELECTIONS
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