MANILA, Philippines — With the spate of killings in the country, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday said that the Philippines’ plunge in the World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index is no longer surprising.
“Despite all of these positive gains and even greater potential, we have to face the reality of the daily accounts of unsolved killings. Many of them committed brazenly with public warnings against drug pushing or addiction. It is not surprising, therefore, that the perception of the rule of law in our country has swung from marked improvement to a downgrade,” Sereno said in her speech delivered before the Management Association of the Philippines.
Philippines Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno
Sereno cited that the Philippines’ rank in the WJP Rule of Law Index released last October, went down from 51 in 2015 to 70 in 2016. The country’s rank rose by nine places in 2015 from the 60th place in 2014, which she attributed to judicial reform initiatives.
Human Rights Watch director Phelim Kline also said the numbers of fatalities in the drug war launched by President Rodrigo Duterte when he assumed office on June 30, 2016, are “appalling but predictable” since he vowed to “forget the laws on human rights.”
The Philippine National Police this week confirmed that the number of people killed in drug-related cases surpassed the 7,000 mark making it an average of more than 30 killed each day. Kine said the killings symbolize wider systems-failure and placed Filipinos under threat of summary killings.
WJP’s rule of law index according to Sereno is the benchmark for global perception-based studies on the administration of justice. She said the Philippine judiciary must also take the index as an “indicator of the erosion of trust in the criminal justice system, in the civil justice system, and in regulatory agencies whether singly or combined.”
Due to this, Sereno called on the three branches of government and the independent constitutional bodies to reflect on how they have been discharging their roles as pillars of criminal justice.
“The judiciary, Department of Justice and its attached agencies, including the national prosecution service and investigation, and the Philippine National Police must come together to ponder on what kinds of genuine changes are required to bring about real justice,” she said.
As Sereno assured the public that the judiciary’s effort to reform has been relentless, she also sought for trust in the rule of law. She said all the institutions involved in the administration of justice are duty bound to proactively report their improvements
“If you believe that the judiciary’s leadership is sincere, what I will ask of you, in turn, is to continue to believe in the rule of law. It is only when institutions faithfully to comply with what the law requires can we experience long-term stability as a country even beyond changes in the administration,” she said.
“I also ask you to help the judiciary defend its reform by not confusing our role with those of the rest in the criminal justice sector. It is the role of the police to investigate and build evidence, that of the prosecutor to prosecute and win the case on behalf of the state The role of the judge is to be fair to both the accused and the state by rendering judgment only on the basis of evidence,” the chief justice added.
Sereno said if the evidence is weak, the justices have no choice but to acquit the accused but appealed that the magistrates must not be blamed for it. She said any effort to weaken the judiciary is also a move to fail the economy.
Tags: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, drug war, Duterte, Duterte said to forget the laws on human rights, extrajudicial killings, human rights, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch director Phelim Kline, Management Association of the Philippines, Phelim Kline, Philippine National Police, Philippines, PNP, Rule of Law Index, supreme court, WJP, World Justice Project