MANILA, Philippines – Despite the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, Associate Justice Arturo Brion believes the Supreme Court (SC) remains strong and united.
The 65-year-old Brion, one of the nominees for chief justice interviewed by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on Wednesday, said Corona's impeachment trial did not have a negative effect on the high court.
“Sabi nila naging masama ang epekto sa Supreme Court ng impeachment trial. Hindi ako naniniwala diyan. Ang Korte Suprema natin ay malakas, kailangan lang natin ng isang malakas din na liderato upang ang Korte Suprema ay makapunta sa dapat niya talagang puntahan,” he said.
Brion admitted that the SC was in “shock” over Corona’s removal from office but he believes it remains unified.
“Buhay na buhay na naman po ang ating Korte Suprema. Normal na normal ang aming operasyon, wala lamang ang aming chief justice. Sapagkat ang ating Supreme Court ay buong-buo. We are a collegial court, we have different beliefs, we come from different backgrounds, we have different strengths and weaknesses. But if you sum up those strengths, kami ay malakas na husgado,” he said.
The associate justice said that while problems mar the Judiciary branch, the positive outweighs the negative.
“The Judiciary is an institution perceived to be problematic. Talagang mayroon kaming problema, hindi itinatanggi ‘yan. Mayroon kaming problema sa number of cases at ang perception of graft and corruption. Tapos kabi-kabila ng sinasabing wala ng tiwala ang taongbayan. But these are the negatives, I can also count the positives, and there are so many positives,” he said.
Brion, who had been part of the Legislative and Executive branches as well, said he believes that cooperation between the 3 branches of government is achievable.
“Tulungan niyo kami para ‘yung aming kakulungan ay mapunuan,” he said.
“Sa panghuhuli ng graft and corruption, kaya po ba naming kami lang?” he added.
Public trust in SC
Brion expressed dismay over the public’s loss of trust in the Supreme Court, saying “graft and corruption is not purely a judiciary problem but a societal problem.”
“I think the public also needs to be assured that there are no shenanigans occurring within the judiciary,” he said.
“Masakit ang loob ko dahil lahat ng ito ay napapataw sa judiciary. Marami ding malinis,” he added.
He said high esteem and respect for the court is not something that can be achieved through the media but through action.
He also said the public may have lost their trust on the country’s justice system because of the delays in court decisions.
“Ang mga kaso nagtatagal ng 5 hanggang 10 taon. Talagang hindi maniniwala ang tao sa atin,” he said.
En banc decisions
If appointed as Supreme Court chief justice, Brion said he will propose that cases be decided through an en banc session so that cases will move faster.
“Cases at the Supreme Court should be decided en banc. And for that purpose, I propose to the court that we restructure ourselves into divisions of 3 so that there will be 5 divisions. These 5 divisions will accept all new petitions for what we call our filtration process,” he said.
Brion admitted it is a “radical proposal” but he believes that it is the answer to the problem of clogging of cases.
“In one en banc seating, 20 to 30 cases will be a possibility,” he said.
He also said an en banc ruling on SC cases will solve the problem of conflicting decisions.
“The cases will not only move faster, there will be uniformity of rulings aside from stability of the tenor of the rulings in our cases. With what I propose, all cases will pass through the en banc, there will be uniformity,” he said.
Brion describes himself as a judicial pragmatist, one who is neither an activist nor conservative.
“I remedy the situation as I see them. I have solutions based on the confines of what is possible based on what is needed,” he said.
Brion shared with the panel that he once admitted hearsay evidence in court.
“Kung sa kabuuan ng ebidensya ay tama, ay siguro ay pwede nating i-admit,” he said.
Brion, who said he is at his healthiest in 40 years, was the 10th nominee to be interviewed by the JBC.