Philippine judiciary

Lawmaker: Despite judiciary’s accomplishments, PH ‘shameful’ due to rights violations

Jairo Bolledo
Lawmaker: Despite judiciary’s accomplishments, PH ‘shameful’ due to rights violations

JUDICIARY'S BUDGET. Court Administrator Raul Villanueva during the hearing on the 2023 budget of the judiciary, at the House of Representatives on September 1, 2022.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

For 2023, the judiciary is proposing a budget of P74.18 billion, but the government, through the National Expenditure Program, is proposing only P52.72 billion

MANILA, Philippines – ACT Teachers Representative France Castro, a member of the progressive Makabayan bloc, said the Philippines is “shameful” because of its human rights violations despite the accomplishments of the judiciary. 

Pero nakakahiya tayo, ‘no? Kahit na sinasabi nating marami tayong accomplishments sa mga cases, pero itong mga human rights violations ay second and sixth tayo doon sa survey. Pero it doesn’t speak well of our judiciary kung gano’n,” Castro said during the House hearing on the judiciary’s budget Thursday, September 1. 

(But we are shameful, right? Even if we say we have a lot of accomplishments in these cases, but on human rights violations, we are second and sixth on the survey. It doesn’t speak well of our judicial system if that’s the case.)

Castro was referring to the human rights report of Front Line Defenders, which ranks countries based on the killings of human rights defenders. In 2015, the country was second highest with 31 killings, and at sixth place in 2021 with 16 killings. 

The Makabayan lawmaker gave the comment after she asked about the status of drug war killings and killings of journalists. From 1986 to June 2022, there have been 195 journalists killed in the Philippines, according to the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines.

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Under RealNumberPH, the government’s unitary report on the drug war, there are at least 6,252 people who have died at the hands of the police during anti-illegal drug operations between July 2016 and May 31, 2022. However, human rights groups estimate the total death toll to have reached 30,000 to include victims of vigilante-style killings. (READ: Killing as policy: Duterte’s drug war that Marcos will inherit)

Three years into Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war, law group Center for International Law described the drug war documents submitted by the Duterte administration to the SC as “rubbish.”

Meanwhile, earlier in the budget hearing, Court Administrator Raul Villanueva shared the judiciary’s accomplishments. Villanueva said that in 2021, the Supreme Court’s (SC) clearance rate was 110%. Clearance rate means the total number of disposed cases compared to new cases.

The Supreme Court’s accomplishment rate.

The court administrator added that the SC so far has a 41% accomplishment rate from January to June 2022.

Updates on writs

Castro also asked the court administrator about updates on extraordinary writs.

  • Writ of amparo. Court Administrator Villanueva said that according to SC Associate Justice Midas Marquez, also a former court administrator, the High Court now has a committee reviewing the writ of amparo. Villanueva said SC Senior Associate Justice Marvic Leonen heads the committee.

  • Writ of habeas data. Villanueva said the judiciary is also reviewing the writ of habeas data: “That is included, your honors. But I hope you understand that aside from the justices working on this, they also consult with the stakeholders or those who may be involved in respect to, you know, this review.”

  • Writ of kalayaan. Castro, during the budget hearing, also asked about strengthening the writ of kalayaan. Villanueva responded by noting the Office of the Court Administrator’s circulars issued “in order to ensure that those entitled, while their cases are pending, can be allowed provisional liberty.”

    The writ of amparo is a remedy available for “any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened.” Meanwhile, the writ of habeas data is available for those whose right to privacy in life, liberty, or security is violated. Writ of kalayaan, lastly, could be a mandamus for the government to protect persons deprived of liberty.  

  • Other topics. During the interpellation, lawmakers and representatives of the judiciary discussed the drug war, former senator Leila de Lima’s cases, and the killings of lawyers and judges.
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Judiciary’s budget at a glance

For 2023, the judiciary is proposing a budget of P74.18 billion. However, the government, through the National Expenditure Program, is proposing only P52.72 billion.

There is a P21.46 billion variance in the judiciary’s budget vis-à-vis the NEP. Variance is the difference between the agency’s proposed budget and the proposed budget under the NEP prepared by the executive branch.

The judiciary also presented items in its proposed budget for Congress’ reconsideration. This includes the P410 million proposed budget for the 2023 Bar Examinations. –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering the police, crime, military, and security.