'Gods of Faura more human, less divine'
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The first lawyer to be interviewed for the position of Chief Justice on Tuesday said the Supreme Court (SC) should lead by example, wipe out its own backlog and be more transparent and accountable in the use of public funds.
Dean Andres Bautista, chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), said the search for the next Chief Justice is less about choosing one person to head the judiciary and more about ensuring that genuine reforms are in place.
“We shouldn't lose sight of our larger objective: overhaul an ineffective, inefficient, and inadequate justice system,” he said.
Bautista noted that more than 60% of court cases are not decided due to the huge backlog of cases. He noted that the PCGG has its own backlog of 276 cases after 26 years of existence.
To address this, he said the Supreme Court should mount an aggressive campaign to recruit the best and brightest lawyers to the judiciary. Asked how he plans to entice the best and brightest, he said one possible tagline to entice young lawyers is “Why practice law? Dispense justice.”
He said courts should be run like a business with planning sessions or workshops at the start of the year to map out goals.
The PCGG chairman said the issue of court delays requires radical and out-of-the-box solutions.
“The time of being cloistered and the time of being like a hermit is gone. Even the Pink Sisters and the Trappist Monks of Guimaras also use text. The court should open up operations and receive constructive feedback, to improve operations,” he said.
“The gods of Padre Faura are more human and less divine,” he added.
7-year term limit
During the interview, Bautista said he is in favor of imposing 7-year term limits on Supreme Court magistrates similar to term limits of elected officials.
He said that he is willing to sign a “waiver” that he will only stay in the SC for 7 years. At 48, Bautista could stay as Chief Justice for 22 years if he is appointed.
“We should have a 7-70 rule. There should be a term limit of only 7 years. Once you reached the age of 70, you have to retire,” he said.
He also said he does necessarily agree with former Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s suggestion that the next Chief Justice should be a “healing Chief Justice.”
He said the next Chief Justice should be willing to continue reforms in the judiciary, which started after the impeachment and removal of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“There are areas that need further reform. We should learn to disagree without being disagreeable… Insofar as we ensure that credibility is restored, to my mind the solution is changing culture, changing attitude and changing mindset. That the court should be more transparent,” he said.
Bautista also disagreed with a proposal that all cases in the Supreme Court should be decided by the Court en banc instead of per division. He said the SC should have the prerogative on which landmark cases should be taken up en banc to avoid congestion and delay.
He also said the Supreme Court must “protect its dependence at the same time realize that it's also interdependent with the other branches.”
Bautista said the Rules of Court should be amended so the filing of frivolous cases should be minimized. He said judges should be encouraged to write shorter decisions and use language that non-lawyer parties can understand.
‘An outsider a breath of fresh air’
The PCGG Chairman was also asked to comment on the possible removal of a Supreme Court magistrate accused of plagiarism. Referring to the pending impeachment case of Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, he said he does not believe that the justice should be impeached based on his own knowledge of the case.
"We have to look at intent. If we're talking about a certain pending case, I think it's not (impeachable). Given the circumstances that I know about the case," he said.
Bautista said people who opposed his nomination for Chief Justice has links to former President Ferdinand Marcos. As PCGG Chair, Bautista is actively pursuing cases against the Marcos family.
If he is appointed Chief Justice, Bautista said he will inhibit in all cases of the PCGG filed before the Supreme Court.
He also said that bringing an outsider to the Supreme Court will provide “new ideas, new insights and perspectives in the way the court can function.”
“An outsider can provide a breath of fresh air into the workings of the court,” he said.
Watch the ANC coverage of the Judicial and Bar Council interviews of the nominees for Chief Justice