Campaign for jury system in PH marks 7th year

by Patrick Camara Ropeta, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Nov 28 2012 09:20 AM | Updated as of Nov 28 2012 05:20 PM

LONDON - A campaign pushing for a jury system in the Philippines marked its seventh year anniversary with a formal event highlighting the importance of their cause.

Philippine Jury Campaign International (PhilJury), is one of three organizations based in the UK urging for a change on the judiciary system in the Philippines, from the current legal court structure headed by a one-man judge, to litigation decided by a panel of jury from members of the public.
Now in its seventh year of campaigning, the group celebrated the anniversary by presenting parts of their work over the years, from awareness projects to outreach programs in the Philippines.
“It’s been difficult. It’s not easy to campaign. Most people already have a certain perception of how the judiciary system should be,” said Amy Balliao, executive director of PhilJury UK, speaking to ABS-CBN News at the event.
She added: “But when we explain the importance of having a jury system in the Philippines, people listen and agree with it. This is our seventh year and after all the struggles, hopefully we’ll have a chance to have a more successful campaign and maybe even get a petition to the Senate soon.”
PhilJury argues that adopting trial-by-jury will improve the quality of legal justice in the Philippines by creating a more efficient and transparent judiciary process, reducing risks of delays, corruption and miscarriage of justice.
“The jury system won’t solve all the problems in the Philippines, but it is one of the solutions to make our judiciary system more effective, stronger, and for the people to believe that justice can be done. It will help show that legal justice is not just for the rich and powerful, but is rather equal and attainable for all Filipinos,” Balliao explained.
The current judiciary system in the Philippines is based on the sole decisions of a one-man judge per case. Figures from PhilJury suggests a slow legal system, causing a backlog of 700,000 pending court cases, with each case taking an average of 6 weeks to resolve.
The jury system, on the other hand, requires only approximately 6 days for each case, and even less for simple litigation. Trial-by-jury is the legal standard for several countries, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States.
“We’ll make sure our kababayans know about the importance of a jury system. We’re going to form chapter groups, do orientations and educational campaigns from baranggays to colleges. We won’t stop to spread this campaign," said Balliao.
UK supporters of the campaign turned up for the formal event at Holiday Inn Bloomsbury in London, with hundreds of guests treated to a buffet dinner, cultural performances, and presentations from leaders of the campaign. Representatives from over 30 Filipino organizations in Britain were in attendance to show their support. 
In December 2012, the group will work alongside Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines for an awareness tour in London, discussing a local case study with a special guest directly affected by the inadequacies of the current judiciary system.
PhilJury also revealed its plans for 2013, which includes an extensive educational tour across the country and a more aggressive lobbying in the Philippine Senate.