‘Decaying’ justice system aiding crime, corruption in PH – lawyers

Eloisa Lopez
‘Decaying’ justice system aiding crime, corruption in PH – lawyers
Low conviction rates and long trial times make justice difficult to achieve and impunity rampant in the country, lawyers at the Rise, Resist, Unite against Tokhang and Tyranny forum say

MANILA, Philippines – With thousands of deaths under the government’s almost two-year old campaign against illegal drugs, De La Salle University Dean of Law School Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno asks: Why is crime and corruption rampant in the Philippines anyway?

His answer? Because of a “decaying” justice system.

This was the consensus among the lawyers present at “Rise, Resist, Unite against Tokhang and Tyranny,” a forum on the human rights implications of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs on Wednesday, March 7, at the University of the Philippines Law School, Diliman, Quezon City.

Lawyers, law students, and professors of the university attended the 4-hour forum organized by Mga Manananggol Laban sa EJK, with Dean Chel Diokno, National Union of People’s Lawyers Chairperson Neri Colmenares, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Vice President Domingo “Egon” Cayosa, and two family members of extrajudicial killing victims at the forefront.

Diokno said statistics can prove his claim, citing the conviction rate of the Department of Justice of only 30%. This means only 3 out of 10 are convicted by public prosecutors. Of the 3, there is no assurance they will even serve their sentence with the country’s inefficient system, paving the way for criminals, including drug offenders, to keep returning to their illegal activities.

On top of that, cases take “forever.”

Maswerte na kayo kung 10 years ang paglilitis ng kaso niyo, (You’re lucky if your case takes 10 years)” Diokno said claiming his longest record of 29 years until a decision was made in a case he handled. 

IBP Vice President Domingo “Egon” Cayosa reiterated this, pointing out that extra-judicial killings are merely “symptoms” of a failed and failing justice system.

“If it takes 15 years on the average to finish a case in this country, the inordinate delay perversely becomes justification for shortcuts,” Cayosa said. “There will be EJKs.”

With the President himself ordering his men to “take the law in their own hands,” the justice system will only become weaker than it already is.

“When the legal system has no value in the society, only an authoritarian government will be capable of maintaining order in our society,” Diokno said.

War on law

Apart from being anti-poor, Diokno said the drug war is also anti-law and pro-authoritarianism.

Previously, President Rodrigo Duterte repeatedly threatened human rights activists and lawyers for expressing concerns against his campaign against illegal drugs. Last week, Duterte also ordered police officers to “ignore” human rights experts or any UN rapporteur.

On Tuesday, he said the International Criminal Court could never have jurisdiction over him.

Diokno said such pronouncements revive the dark days of law during the Marcos regime, when the former dictator “owned” all judges in the Philippines after inserting two provisions in the constitution that allowed him to put in power any judge he preferred. “For 14 years, we did not have justice based on the merits,” Diokno said.

Likewise today, Diokno said our institutions which are supposed to do the checks and balances on the executive abuse are all under attack.

“The Supreme Court is under attack. The Office of the Ombudsman is under attack. The Commission on Human rights is under attack. Even members and organizations of the press, the fourth institution of the country, are also under attack.”

“If we cannot and do not say and do our best to stop these from happening, then everything we have fought for for the last 40 years is going to go down the drain,” Diokno said.

Fight impunity

Whether or not one is pro or anti Duterte, NUPL Chairmain Neri Colmenares said one must fight impunity because this issue goes beyond presidents and politics.

“Presidents come and go, a few years more and wala na yan si Duterte, but if we do not dismantle this system of impunity that we have in our country today, it will haunt the next generation of FIlipinos–your children, and the children of your children,” Colmenares said.

Colmenares also said that this form of impunity is the worst kind – “when people commit crimes because they know they can get away with it.”

And while discussions about human rights and law mean well, Cayora added that lawyers must do more.

“It’s not enough that we have press conferences like this, fora like this, if we cannot gather and help [victims of impunity],” Cayora said.

“What we [lawyers] say don’t matter much nowadays, it’s what we do that counts.” – Rappler.com