EDITORIAL - Slow grind
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - January 9, 2014 - 12:00am

If the wheels of justice are to grind faster in this country, reforms should start at the top. The Supreme Court, which has supervision over the judiciary, should lead the way and set the pace. Instead it is leading by example in the slow resolution of cases.

Consider the corruption case filed against former justice secretary Hernando Perez. The alleged $2-million extortion case reportedly took place in the first weeks in office of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo after the second people power revolution in January 2001. A formal complaint was filed against Perez in 2002 by businessman Mark Jimenez.

As the Supreme Court noted, it took the Office of the Ombudsman five years and five months to resolve the complaint filed against Perez, his wife Rosario and businessmen Ernest Escaler and Ramon Arceo Jr. The “inordinate delay” in the resolution, the SC noted, was “an outright violation” of the respondents’ constitutionally guaranteed right to a speedy disposition of the case.

For that delay, the Sandiganbayan dismissed the complaint. This was way back in 2008. The case was elevated to the SC, which took another five years to render its verdict. Citing the same inordinate delay, the high tribunal upheld only the other day the Sandiganbayan’s dismissal of the complaint. The ruling, like that of the anti-graft court, did not resolve the merits of the extortion case.

Why does it take five years to uphold a dismissal based on a technicality? The extortion complaint was supposed to be the first corruption case under the Arroyo administration. Thanks to snail-paced justice, the nation may never know the truth. Even Perez and the others charged in the case, who all profess innocence, should want a clear exoneration.

Even temporary restraining orders issued by the courts can be anything but temporary. By the time the SC lifts its TRO on the Reproductive Health law, the Philippine population, expected to hit 100 million this year, may have galloped to 150 million, with only women with the financial means enjoying access to reproductive health services and having the option to plan the size of their families.

Delays in the judicial system have other uses. This week the intelligence chief of the Bureau of Customs lamented that rice smugglers were securing TROs from friendly judges to prevent the seizure of hot rice. TROs secured through the right price or connections also wreak havoc on fair competition and drive away investments. The system is broken and in dire need of fixing. Repair work must start at the top.

AS THE SUPREME COURT BUREAU OF CUSTOMS CASE ERNEST ESCALER AND RAMON ARCEO JR. THE EVEN PEREZ GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO HERNANDO PEREZ MARK JIMENEZ OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN PEREZ REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH
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