MANILA — Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno wants the public to remain confident in the rule of law because the country risks breaking down if it doesn't.
"If you believe that the judiciary's leadership is sincere, what I ask you in turn is to continue to believe in the rule of law. It is only when institutions faithfully comply with what the law requires can we experience long-term stability as a country, even beyond changes in administration," she told the Management Association of the Philippines in Makati City.
Sereno said the public needs to be aware of the judiciary's role and how it's different from those who enforce the law such as the police.
"I also ask you to help the judiciary defend its reforms by not confusing our role with those of the rest in the criminal justice sector. It is the role of the police to investigate and build evidence. That of the prosecutor to prosecute and win the case on behalf of the state, and the role of the judge is to be fair to both the accused and the state by rendering judgement only on the basis of the evidence," she said.
"I also ask you to continue supporting the various judicial reform initiatives in which we have engaged you in."
Sereno said incidents of illegal drug-related killings have affected the people's trust in the justice system, and that it will take the cooperation of all 3 branches of government to bring about genuine changes in the justice system.
"Despite all of these positive gains and even greater potential gains, we have to face the reality of the daily accounts of unsolved killings, many of them, committed brazenly, with public warnings, against drug pushing or addiction. It is not surprising, therefore, that perception of the rule of law in our country has swam from marked improvement to a downgrade," she said.
"It requires therefore that all the 3 branches of government and the independent constitutional bodies reflect on how they have been discharging their roles in a way that has brought about the state of affairs.
"The government pillars of criminal justice, that is, the judiciary, the Department of Justice and its attached agencies, including the National Prosecution Service and the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police, must come together to ponder what kind of genuine changes are required to bring about real justice."
According to Sereno, supporting the judiciary is equal to supporting democracy, and to weaken the judiciary is to "weaken our country."
"I leave you with a thought that to support the judiciary is to support not only our democracy but also to engender an environment conducive to economic growth. Any effort to weaken the judiciary is to weaken our country. We can only ensure protection of the rights of every citizen, including those of the business sector, if we have a judiciary that is truly independent and strong," she said.
Some of the reforms the Supreme Court plan to implement are adding more courts that will try illegal narcotics cases, establishing cybercrime courts, and designating special courts to handle cases involving government infrastructure.