MANILA - The Marcos regime left Philippine institutions such as the judiciary in shambles, former Senator Rene Saguisag and human rights lawyer Atty. Jose Manuel Diokno said Friday.
Diokno, chairperson of the Free Legal Assistance Group, said the legal profession changed after late dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial rule as he "owned every single judge in our country."
"The legal profession changed, it became a very corrupt profession. And that’s what I think the young people don’t realize, it’s not really a legacy that dictatorship left. They left a lot of institutional problems, that affect us until today, especially our justice system," he told ANC's Top Story.
"Up to now, our justice system, I would be the first to admit, is in shambles. Everyone wants justice, that’s why people really, I believe, supported the war on drugs because of the justice [system]. Because the government has never delivered on its promise to bring the people, especially the poor, justice," he added.
Diokno is the son of late Senator Jose "Pepe" Diokno, who was among the first to be arrested on September 22, 1972, the day after the official declaration of martial law.
Saguisag agreed and said Marcos "destroyed our values, institutions, and processes."
"When Martial Law was inflicted, napalitan yung mga matitinong huwes. He was super-executive, super-court, super-legislature, and a 1-man continuing Con-con (Constitutional Convention)," he said.
"Dahil sa Amendment Number 6, he could amend the constitution. That was how widespread and dominating he was."
Diokno said the Marcoses were never held accountable in the Philippines because of the weak justice system.
"We were never able to strengthen the justice system the dictatorship had emasculated. Why? Because we have neglected it," he said.
"And for as long as we continue to neglect it, which stems all the way back from the 1970s, we will never have accountability, we will always have impunity and will never even be able to have good economic development."
The FLAG chairperson added that the government is not doing "anything concrete" to address judiciary issues.
"We have a vacancy rate in our courts, prosecution service that's so high: 24 and 34 percent. We have a low conviction rate of only 30 percent. We have no way of monitoring if a person convicted is actually put in jail," Diokno said.
"So, if you’re saying why can drug lords get away with it? Why aren't these corrupt officials put in jail? It’s because we don’t have accountability. And we don’t have accountability because we lack a strong justice system. That’s the one thing our people have never been able to experience."
Meantime, the Supreme Court has affirmed the acquittal of former First Lady and now Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos in 32 criminal cases over alleged unlawful foreign exchange accounts amounting to millions of dollars.