1% budget for judiciary scandalous, says Sycip lawyer

by Cathy Rose A. Garcia, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jul 25 2012 01:54 PM | Updated as of Jul 26 2012 02:11 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Rafael Morales, a managing partner of SyCip Salazar Hernandez and Gatmaitan law firm, said he will bring a "fresh" and "impartial" approach to the judiciary, if appointed Chief Justice.

Morales said he would make it a priority to fill up the vacancies in the judiciary, which is grossly undermanned.

"I would want to fill up the vacancies because it is intolerable that the vacancies (at the judiciary) are 25%," he said, during the interview at the Judicial and Bar Council on Wednesday.

In order to attract the best candidates to the judiciary, Morales said he will also propose an increase in salaries.

"I would work for the upward adjustment of salaries at the judiciary to stem the brain drain of the judiciary because we can't attract the bright people because the salaries at the private sector are very high," he said.

Increasing the number of employees at the judiciary, Morales said, would go a long way in helping declog the dockets of the court and speed up the work.

If appointed as Chief Justice, Morales said he would encourage the Supreme Court to have shorter decisions. "A 1-page decision would be alright and be substantially in compliance with the Constitution," he said.

Morales said he will also push for an increase in the judiciary's share of the national budget, while reducing the filing fees at the courts.

"In order to recoup losses from the reduction of filing fees, I will work for the increase in the share of the judiciary in the national budget, which is only 1%. I am suprised that is too low. For the third branch of the government to be given only 1% is scandalous," he said.

In order to restore the confidence of the people in the judiciary, Morales said he will work to provide "real justice" to the people,

"It is the duty of the judge to dispense of cases speedily. Justice delayed is justice denied. That way people would have redress of grievances. I think speedy disposition of cases is a must so that confidence of the people in the justice system is restored," he said.

Asked about the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona, Morales agreed with the view that "moral fitness" is an important criteria for the next Chief Justice.

"Moral fitness is number one in my list. Honesty is the best policy, without integrity on the part of the Chief Justice, people would not repose trust and confidence in the court system," he said.

Not a trial lawyer

Morales, who has 37 years of experience, is not a trial lawyer, which prompted some JBC members to question his capabilities.

"I don't go to trial. As a managing partner, I am involved in litigation in the sense that I help conceptualize and strategize cases... Being a trial lawyer is not a guarantee you'll make a good justice," he said.

Asked how he will approach his older and more experienced colleagues at the Supreme Court, Morales said, "I am consensus builder. I would like to reach out with my colleagues at the Supreme Court and appeal to their sense of patriotism and their cooperation in the interest of country and people."