Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Opinion: To Rehabilitate or Demolish our condemned Justice System?

Is Philippine Justice truly blind
- or just Ethically challenged?
(Source: http://tinyurl.com/24lbrkf)

By Katherine Verances Marfal

For most of the graduating high school students, becoming a University of the Philippines (U.P.) college student is just a fantasy, because of the slim chances of passing the UPCAT.

And similar fantasies are also felt by those who already passed the said exam, and are already regular U.P. Diliman students. These fantasies are - being accepted into these two elite colleges of the university - the College of Law and College of Medicine. Due to very stringent requirements needed to gain entrance into these institutions, not all U.P. Diliman Graduates are accepted to be students into these colleges. And after being accepted, come the countless sleepless nights to pass exams given by educational “terror” professors. And for the country as whole, these situations are replicated in all schools, offering Law and Medical courses. These two courses attract the majority of the students with superior IQ’s. Thus, one is tempted to compare the professionals that evolved from these two noble professions after they graduate.

Our medical doctors are recognized as among the best in the world. The health care of Filipinos, in spite being almost 100 million now, is now above par. We even export many of these medical professionals abroad, where they excel, are very much sought after and are very much valued.

Advances in the medical field have made it hi-tech now. A doctor can diagnose the ailment of a patient in an instant accurately, and prescribe immediately the remedy to cure the ailment. The medical field has progressed considerably, since a century ago, when “hilots” and witch doctors “ways” were the predominant practices in this field.

In contrast, the Philippine legal profession a century ago was already a well developed field, with noble legal dictums in place and practiced for centuries before. But to the chagrin of many, these legal practices hardly changed thru the years; and did not improve with the changing times. These are the realities in this important field, though many opine that the Bar Exam is harder than Medical Board Exam. These are known to everybody.

The legal professionals and practitioners are sometimes victims themselves of these legal aberrations. During elections of public officials, many of these legal professionals cry out loud that they were cheated, causing them to file electoral protests. And to dismay of everybody, these electoral protests are resolved only- several days before the expiration of the cheater’s disputed term of office. This is similar to the situation, where a doctor finally prescribes the remedy to the ailment of the patient during the latter’s funeral. And most of the times, the cheated candidate is a cheater himself during previous elections. Only this time, he met his match, a better cheater than him.

Most governors and local government officials own hundreds of hectares of converted forest land reserves in their area of responsibility. These compose the bulk of their wealth, which they usurped thru legal manipulations. These resulted in the rise of turmoil in the rural areas, due to these injustices against poor rightful owners/tenants.

During the Martial Law times, there was a land case between groups of hundreds of farmers and several billionaire landowners. It involved a large tract of land (about 500 hectares) now occupied by the classiest subdivision located at the boundary of Quezon City, San Juan and Pasig. The group of farmers won up to the Supreme Court. Like defeated electoral candidates, the rich landowners were just waiting for their adversaries to be proclaimed; while the groups of farmers were ecstatic of their impending windfall; when suddenly, omnipotent beautiful hand touched the heads of the then justices, for them to reverse their legal stand. As the result, everybody became happy and got compensated; except of course, the said groups of farmers. That gallant lawyer of the poor farmers transferred to a mansion in a classy subdivision owned by the billionaire landowners. Before this happened, the moral and ethical reputation of the Supreme Court justices is similar to those of the Pope and his cardinals. The myth of incorruptibility was destroyed.

Twenty five years ago, a rich investor approached an owner of a 20-hectare land in the heart of Baliwag, Bulacan. The said investor offered the latter, a joint venture to develop the said land into a subdivision, where the said investor will shoulder the cost of development- which was accepted by the said owner. But to the chagrin of the owner, the investor immediately sold lots without any site development. This forced the owner to file a court case against the said investor, which was not resolved by the lower court for more than 30 years. This drove the family of the owner into deep poverty- due to the costs of the litigation and non-use of the property. Out of frustrations, the middle age son of the owner, who was only a boy when the case started, went up to the mountains and sought the help of the NPA’s. Upon learning the story of the case, a NPA commander sent notices to the rich investor and his lawyer never to attend court hearings concerning the case. Due to default, the local court was forced to declare the case in favor of the owner. This is an example of long delayed justice due to the ineptness of our court. This is the reason why NPA is considered as an “alternative court” in the rural areas.

These are just a few of the many sins of our justice system. And this is the primary reason why corruption is rampant in our society. Grafters are not afraid to do wrongs; because they believe that justice in the Philippines has a price and plenty of “fixcals” can be bought. For sure, our legal professionals know more about these.

This is not to cast aspersion on the law profession. We, as a family, have high regard of this calling. All my three brothers aspire to take up law- with the whole family very proud and supportive of this dream.

But it seems that the lawyers and justices themselves are victims of our justice system; whose quality has deteriorated over the years. Its like that elegant mansion built a century ago, but due to neglect and bad repairs, lost its glory. Yes, its is still being used, but its like those condemned structures, occupied by robbers , swindlers, cheaters, drug pushers, tax evaders, corrupt judges and other rats of the society that are infected of communicable virus of corruptions. It is sad to say that many of our idealists, very intelligent young lawyers are flushed into the septic tank of wasted legal minds, as they join other legal zombies as they enter this dilapidated mansion of justice- which is unfit to live in nobly.

Young legal minds cannot you not do something about this?

(Katherine Verances Marfal is a freelance writer. Among the publications she writes for are the Manila Bulletin, Sports Digest, Panorama and Pilipino Star Ngayon. She is also a Web Content Writer and teaches Pre-school at Philippine Normal University).

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