EDITORIAL - TROs for sale

(The Philippine Star) - June 5, 2016 - 12:00am

President Aquino often publicly took the judiciary to task for inefficiency and corruption, warning at one point that he would support constitutional amendments to cure “judicial overreach” and clip the powers of a co-equal branch of government. He did not push through with this, but he persuaded his congressional allies to impeach a chief justice and an ombudsman whom he perceived to be roadblocks along his straight path or daang matuwid.

Still, the wheels of Philippine justice continue to turn at snail’s pace, and accusations of corruption persist, with business groups often pointing to the weak rule of law as a major disincentive to investments in the country.

Now president-elect Rodrigo Duterte has also warned corrupt judges against impeding his governance. At a press conference after most of the members of his incoming Cabinet were announced earlier this week, Duterte warned that his campaign against corruption would include magistrates who profited from issuing temporary restraining orders or TROs.

TROs, some of which can last several years with repeated renewals, have seriously delayed many government projects, with competing bidders shopping for sympathetic judges or justices willing to issue restraining orders. Duterte said he would send a representative to the Supreme Court to see how to put an end to the practice.

The other day the Duterte camp clarified that the incoming president, a former city prosecutor, was referring only to corrupt magistrates. But the public got him the first time, and there are those who share his observations about TROs for sale.

Being a lawyer, the president-elect undoubtedly understands the separation of powers, with the SC mandated to supervise the judiciary and discipline erring members. With the forthcoming change of national leadership, however, the two independent branches can discuss areas of cooperation in improving the administration of justice. The overriding consideration is efficient, honest governance, to serve the public better and strengthen the rule of law.

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