Concept Paper for the Creation of Judiciary Watch Under the Aegis of Rotary Club of Manila
Submitted by: Rico V. Domingo, Esq.
Secretary, Rotary Club of Manila
The Philippines has recently been ranked 139th (among 180 countries) in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. Moreover, a New York-based human rights watchdog, Freedom House, gave the Philippines a low rating of 4 in political rights and 3 in civil liberties in its survey on political rights and civil liberties, with a rating of 1 indicating the highest degree of freedom and 7 the least amount of freedom.
Both the Transparency International and Freedom House largely attribute their respective poor ranking of the Philippine to the “culture of impunity which stems in part from a case of backlog in the judicial system which, in turn, hampers the fight against corruption.” Observing that the “the rule of law in the Philippines is generally weak”, Freedom House further opined: “A backlog of more than 800,000 cases in the court system contributes to impunity, and low pay encourages rampant corruption. The judiciary receives less than one percent of the national budget, and judges and lawyers often depend on local powers for basic resources and salaries, leading to compromised verdicts.”
By and large, the perception expressed by foreign observers or watchdogs on the state of Philippine Judiciary is shared by Filipinos who appear helpless in the face of rampant corruption and inefficiency in all levels of the prosecutorial and judicial systems.
Creation of a Judiciary Watch
The proposed Judiciary Watch is a non-profit, non-partisan organization which aims to promote honesty, accountability and transparency in government in general, and the judiciary in particular. Its public education advocacies seek the adoption of high levels of ethics and morality in the judiciary to ensure that corruption and inefficiency in the judiciary do not result in miscarriage of justice and an undeterred disregard of the Rule of Law.
Judiciary Watch uses accessible public records and soon-to-be enacted Freedom of Information Act (FIA) and other investigative tools to expose misconduct by members of the judiciary and other government officials and hold them accountable for corrupt activities. Information and data gathered through the Judiciary Watch’s monitoring activities and utilization of the judicial ethics proceedings, together with its investigative, legal and judicial activities, should provide fail-proof bases for the criminal prosecution of corrupt judicial and government officials.
The Judiciary Watch’s comprehensive public education program includes participation in public fora on judicial reform, delivery of speeches, writing of opinion editorials (op-eds), publications (“corruption updates” (on administrative, criminal or civil cases versus members of the judiciary; status of highly questionable cases - - resolved with finality or pending adjudication but not falling under the sub judice doctrine - - suspected of having been tainted with corruption or decided with grave abuse of discretion or bereft of legal basis), “judiciary watch internet linkages”, investigation and research blogs, judiciary watch videos), “research toolbox” (such as handbooks on how to maximize use of the FIA; financial disclosures of judges/justices in all levels of the judiciary; congressional ethics deliberations, direct mail service, etc.), educational conferences, media outreach, radio, news, television, cable appearances, radio outreaches through infomercials and public service advertisements. Utilization of the “New Media” such as Facebook, YouTube and RSS via the internet and the Judiciary Watch’s Website will be optimized to reach as broad readership and audience as possible especially the youth.
Ideally, the Judiciary Watch Project will require staff members to comprise the legal (director of litigation, attorneys and paralegals), investigative (director of investigation, investigative counsel, program manager and researcher), and public relations/media (director of public relations, investigative reporter and web associate) departments. Initially, all these members will be volunteers coming from law schools, investigative agencies, mass communications departments of universities or colleges, advertising or public relations agencies. Additional“warm bodies” may be recruited from kindred non-governmental organizations or civil societies.
As Judiciary Watch matures and develops into a full-bore advocacy group, professionals with legal, investigative and media backgrounds may have to be employed to sustain the activities of the organization. Additional departments such as membership and development and administration and finance will likewise be needed in due course.