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Are fraternities and sororities corrupting the government?

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - February 24, 2018 - 12:00am

What is really the relevance of fraternities and sororities to our country’s socio-economic and political life? What have the big law firms done in the service of the people?

I listened to many serious observers in the Philippine society today. They have a very bad impression of these groups, as follows: Aside from killing young law students through the ancient and barbaric hazing rites which do not have any socially-redeeming value, these Greek-lettered so-called fraternal organizations are the number one cause of rampant corruption of public officials. Fraternity brods and sisters are being appointed to the Cabinet as secretary, undersecretary, directors of government-owned and -controlled corporations and other sensitive positions, not because they are the best qualified but because of the fraternal bonds. Therefore brods are reporting to brods and thus vital decisions are being compromised, to the great damage and prejudice of public interest. These fraternities and sororities have been corrupting the bureaucracy and have caused tremendous damage to public service beyond pecuniary estimation.

My sources also have a very bad picture of law firms, especially the big ones which are marginalizing the private practice of individual practitioners. Here are their thoughts: Big and influential law firms in Metro Manila and all over the land, strategically located in the centers of commerce and industry, composed mostly of members of the same fraternities and sororities are well-known in the legal community as openly peddling their influence on judges who are their brods, wives of brods or sisters wearing the judicial robes. These big law firms, after all, are usually instrumental in having their brods and sisters appointed to various judicial posts. Thus, cases be they civil, commercial, criminal, administrative, tax or labor litigation, are decided, not really on the merits, but on the basis of fraternal ties. This is a very sad commentary of how fraternities are destroying the integrity of our justice system.

When I was a Labor arbiter from 1977 until 2012 when I was appointed by the president as DOLE Undersecretary, I have confirmed how these fraternities operate. I have come across with lawyer-friends who tell me stories involving huge cases, where there were clear conflicts of interests between the handling lawyers and law firms on the one hand, and the heads of such offices, and judicial and quasi-judicial magistrates who were supposed to decide those cases on the other. Many of those clients would even brag about them and would have to pay a bundle to assure success in their litigation. These are very destructive to the people’s faith in our justice system. The president should look into this and the Supreme Court should be more vigilant in its court administration functions.

We hasten to interject a caveat, however, in fairness to all concerned. There are many honest and incorruptible judges and officials who remain faithful to their oath of office. They constitute the silent and unsung majority. But the image of integrity and judicial excellence they have built over the years is being eroded by the few bad eggs under the control and influence of fraternities and sororities, and a few are even allegedly in the payroll of giant firms. As of today we do not have enough evidence to prove all these in court. That is why the title of this column is in the interrogative. We are only asking. Do you hear what I hear? Do you smell what I smell?

If your answer is no, then I may be seeing ghosts, or I am just being misled by my informers.

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