Robed Hoodlums: TROs for Sale

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Raidless Mind
By Reynard Magtoto
BicolToday.com

There is a bigger judiciary anomaly in the continuing political standoff between two claimed Mayors of Makati: City Mayor Jejomar “Junjun” Binay and Vice Mayor Romulo “Kid” Peña. The confusion for city leadership begun when the delayed TRO was released – and the Court of Appeals in this case are placing for bigger investment on its hoodlums in robes when the appellate court issued a 60-day Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on Junjun after Kid sworn as acting mayor.

The delayed TRO just resulted to ill motives and bias in both camps and eroded the public trust in the courts due to its inefficiency which is likely to be prone in judicial corruption in the legal system.

There are now doubts on the legality of the TRO obtained by the young Binay. The preventive suspension order of Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on orders of the Ombudsman last March 11 against Junjun Binay was served five days later when Kid Peña sworn in as acting mayor of Makati at around 9:45 am of March 16 but the Court of Appeals’ (CA) TRO was issued already noon on the same date.

There were rumors that there was an alleged exchanging of hands for a huge amount of money in the city and the judiciary before Junjun got the TRO. But nobody would admit that a certain “TRO for Sales” exists in the Makati City issue, even being the Binay camp as its top client.

At the snail’s pace of the Justice system in the country, the delivery of government services nationwide suffers from constant delays and the judiciary is no exception according to Justice Martin Villarama, Jr. “Much as we deplore it, delay is seen as engendering case-fixing and other corrupt practices that sadly taint the judiciary as a whole”.

The presence of selling the TROs in the hoodlums in robes of the CA only fronted the corruption in the judiciary and hinders the efficiency of promoting genuine justice in the country.

The political standoff in the financial center of the Philippine economy could weaken the country’s economic gains. That’s why Junjun firmly holds the decision of the CA – to stop his preventive suspension despite his alleged corruption charges.

Binay Camp filed a supplemental petition last March 19 asking the CA to cite Ombudsman Conchita Carpio – Morales and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima accusing them in defying the CA’s restraining order which they believed that such defiance only showed bias against Binays and an insult in the integrity of the court.

DILG therefore should abide the issued TRO that might resolve the standoff in the mayorship.

During her speech at the International District Conference last March 20, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima declared that her opinion on its defiance in the CA order against Junjun Binay merely serves as an advice – a non-binding legal opinion that does not change the decision of the court.

Being the second highest court in the country, the Intermediate Appellate Court reviews the decisions and resolutions in administrative cases of the Ombudsman, and those of the Department of Justice and other agencies exercising quasi-judicial functions, including the Office of the President.

Based on the Ombudsman Act of 1989 Sec. 14, “No writ of injunction shall be issued by any court to delay an investigation being conducted by the Ombudsman under this Act, unless there is a prima facie evidence that the subject matter of the investigation is outside the jurisdiction of the Office of the Ombudsman”.

This means that the issued TRO will not delay the Ombudsman’s investigation on the alleged anomalies in the construction of Makati City Hall Building 2. The said act does not mention to stop Binay perform its duties as mayor just because there was a filed injunction.

However the issued TRO was inexplicable according to De Lima. She suspects that the halt order is more than a legal issue. “Obviously, more is at play here than the application of law and the fulfillment of the ends of justice,” she claimed.

Judges are not supposed to represent constituents but rather to serve the public by following the law regardless of personal preferences, political pressure, or popular will. But there has been a running secret among lawyers.

Corruption in the judicial system exists in their own language on selling a decision to the highest bidder regardless of its merits – and for the confused Makati, hoodlums in robes favor Binay.

CA handles around 90% of all cases which gives the administration an avenue to perfect the use of justice system in turning its wheel into business dealings generating millions of corrupt money through judicial blackmail and extortion.

Lamenting on almost 80 percent unresolved cases because of the corrupt judges, prosecutors and court personnel, former president Joseph Estrada who was then Vice President and Chief of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC) in 1993 coined the term “hoodlums in robes”.

In 2002, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno revived the term “hoodlums in robes” as welcome call urging lawyers to help cleanse the judiciary to be free of corruption scandals.

Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno agreed that weeding out corruption is his biggest challenge as Chief Justice. He summoned the CA chairpersons to communicate to them on the alleged widespread corruption in the judiciary.

To reduce and eliminate backlog of cases, the CA launched its Zero Backlog Project. In the one-year period between June 2005 and June 2006, the CA averaged a monthly disposal of about 13 to 14 cases per Justice. About half of the number of Justices accomplished more than the minimum requirement of 12 cases. From a total of 11,343 cases submitted for decision in 2001, the CA has considerably reduced its backlog to 9,387 cases as of August 31, 2007.

However there are still attempts to favor a party for considerations other than the merits of the cause. It is hard to conclude that the members and employees of CA are sincere and determined to continuously improve the distribution of genuine justice and prevent needless delays on urgent cases.

In the snail pace judicial system, judicial reforms will take delayed due process until justice be denied. The presence of corruption remains one of the hindrances in the judicial system and the CA should now work double time.

The political standoff in Makati City is just one of the examples that ensure TROs as effective weapon to delay cases and retain anyone in office, though in limited duration, despite corruption charges and betrayal in public trust.

TRO then is one way for the hoodlums in robes to propagate more judicial scandal in the country. If the judicial system is not properly managed, more lawyers will turn themselves into robed hoodlums ensuring themselves not to get off the ground. [BicolToday.com]

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