MANILA, Philippines – De La Salle College of Law Dean Jose Manuel Icasiano Diokno, an outsider-nominee for Chief Justice, said the rich and the poor should have equal rights in attaining justice.
In an interview with the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on Tuesday, Diokno said if he is appointed chief justice, he would focus on delivering justice “especially to the masses.”
Diokno, a human rights lawyer, said he will find ways and means to make justice for the poor “real rather than just a dream” and give them more access to legal counsels and to trial courts.
“The sad truth is many of our courts are too expensive for many of our people to litigate cases,” he said.
“I’d like to be remembered as someone who was able to improve the system for the majority of the public. Someone who can say that we can truly, genuinely deliver justice to the people,” he added.
Diokno described justice as “something concrete and not just a lofty ideal.”
“Right now, law and justice are 2 separate concepts for the poor. For many of our poor, they identify the law with naked power and they see justice as just a dream, something they can never attain in their lifetime,” he said.
Diokno said he would like to leave a legacy of someone who “brought justice back into law.”
He added that the public should also have a bigger role in selecting judges because “everyone has a stake in the justice system.”
Restoring faith in Judiciary
Diokno said the first priority of the next chief justice should be restoring the public’s faith in the Judiciary.
“Karamihan sa mga kapatid natin hindi na naniniwala sa husgado. It’s really unfortunate, but that will have to be the first priority of the next chief justice. How will he address that?” he said.
Diokno said if he is appointed as chief justice, he will propose a 4-point program to restore the people’s faith in the justice system.
Diokno said he will call for more judicial transparency, more public accountability, no more flip-flopping decisions and faster, cheaper justice.
“To restore the people’s faith in the Judiciary, we must show them that we are transparent,” he said.
Diokno also said how judges conduct trials must be reviewed to avoid delays in delivering justice.
The 51-year-old Diokno admitted that the task of being the chief magistrate of the Supreme Court will be challenging because of his lack of experience as a judge.
However, he said his court experience, although merely as an advocate, for more than 20 years has helped him understand how the justice system works.
“The beauty of it is I’ve seen how justice works first-hand at close range. I’ve seen it from the lowest of the lowest courts, to the highest of the highest courts. I would like to bring that experience to the court as I can,” said Diokno.
“I would have to make sure that I would rid myself of the advocate’s attitude if ever I was appointed to the Court,” he added.
He also said he doesn’t believe that an outsider being appointed as chief justice will cause demoralization within the more senior justices in the Supreme Court.
Diokno also denied that he supports leftist groups.
“I have had clients from the army, I have represented both so-called leftists, rightists or centerists. To me, the billing doesn’t matter, what matters are the merits of the case,” he said.
Diokno, the son of former Senator Jose Diokno, was one of the private prosecutors in the impeachment trial of then-President Joseph Estrada in late 2000-January 2001.