MANILA, Philippines - Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno is tapping lawyers to crack down on corrupt judges.
Speaking at the oath-taking of new officers of the Philippine Bar Association (PBA) Wednesday night, Sereno urged lawyers to expose cases of bribery and extortion involving “hoodlums in robes.”
‘I assure you that if the cases filed are serious and supported by evidence, the justices of the Supreme Court (SC) will see to it that the ax will fall on whoever deserves it, even if it falls close to us,” she said.
Sereno said the SC might not disbar or administratively penalize lawyers who come forward and tell on corrupt judges.
‘As to their criminal liability, perhaps the Court can discuss with the Ombudsman the possibility of naming the whistle-blowers as state witnesses and giving them immunity,” she said.
Sereno said talks of corruption have become common in legal circles, but in hushed tones and through blind items.
"It is seldom that a lawyer comes up to the Supreme Court, armed with evidence to kick these culprits out of the bench and bar,” she said.
Sereno said her office has received dozens of letters accusing a judge of corruption and bias as shown in his or her decisions.
“None of them have shown that money changed hands,” she said.
Sereno asked the PBA, one of the country’s major organizations of lawyers, to help fight corruption in the judiciary.
“With the sufficient talent and resources available to your organization, I think you can be more successful in identifying and gathering evidence against scalawags in purple robes and the unscrupulous members of our profession,” she said.
“The image of the judiciary will probably temporarily suffer with the filing of these cases, but in the long run, a cleaning of the house will help lead to the gold standard status that we want for the judiciary.”