Supreme Court probes corruption allegations vs judges

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 08 2019 04:28 PM

Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin during the Martial Law oral arguments at the Supreme Court on January 29, 2019. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

BAGUIO CITY – Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin on Monday assured the public there is “nothing to worry about” regarding allegations of corruption in the judiciary.

In an interview after the flag-raising ceremony here, Bersamin said the Supreme Court investigates many judges who are the subjects of various complaints. 

“We have nothing to worry about because although you do not know too much about what we are doing or what we have been doing, taon-taon, marami kaming iniimbestigahan na mga nakaupong mga hukom at manalig kayo sa aming mga efforts kasi hindi lang namin pwedeng isiwalat dahil strict confidentiality ang ino-observe namin, hangga’t hindi kami ready na maggawad ng aming hatol laban sa kanila,” he told reporters.

(We have nothing to worry about because although you do not know too much about what we are doing or what we have been doing, we investigate lots of sitting judges ever year and have faith that we have efforts but we cannot divulge because we observe strict confidentiality until we are ready to mete out judgment.)

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen earlier challenged the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) during its national convention in Iloilo to come up with a national network to fight corruption, amidst allegations of corruption in the judiciary.

“Silence when we have the ability to speak is also a cause of injustice,” Leonen told around 3,000 lawyers gathered at the Iloilo Convention Center on March 28, encouraging them to speak out against corruption. He noted that the IBP has yet to issue a manifesto against corruption.

“Our silence registers our complicity. The number of cases disciplining judges, court personnel and lawyers on grounds indicate that corruption exists. I am not certain if it is still pervasive. However in my view, in any conflict where corruption is present, it skews the system in favor of a result that is far from the ideal of justice which we all seek,” he said.

He warned: “Corruption weakens judicial independence far more than political interference.”

Bersamin acknowledged Leonen’s comments but stressed it is the consensus of justices that will ultimately determine if judges are liable.

“Maaaring ang opinyon ng isang justice tungkol sa isang bagay like mga kasalanan ng mga hukom ay iba doon sa opinyon ng kapwa justice. Ngunit sa bandang huli, kapag nagkabotohan na ang Supreme Court, ang consensus ay walang kasalanan, hindi namin pwedeng baguhin ‘yan. Kung ang consensus naman sa botohan ay may kasalanan o may nagawang di tama ‘yung isang hukom, hindi kami nag-aatubili o naghe-hesitate na maggawad ng hatol na sapat,” he said.

(A justice might have a different opinion about one thing, like the fault of a judge, from his fellow justices. But in the end, when the Supreme Court votes and the consensus is that there was no culpability, we cannot change that. If the consensus is there was liability or that the judge committed a wrongdoing, we will not hesitate to hand down a judgment.)

Bersamin noted that some of the allegations are “not that serious” but he said the Court will not sweep allegations under the rug.

“Karamihan ng mga binibintangan na mga hukom ay hindi naman ganoon kasama. Kaya maingat na maingat kami diyan dahil unang-una, ang masisira diyan, ang buong hudikatura kung may mga hukom na lumalabag sa batas. At hindi kami nagtatakip ng kahit sinuman,” he said.

(Most of the judges tagged were not too bad. That's why we are very careful because first to be destroyed here is the jurisdiction, if judges violate laws. We will not cover up for anyone.)