Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Threatening judicial independence

December 23, 2008

Hon. Gabriel T. Ingles
Branch 58 Presiding Judge
Regional Trial Court
Cebu City

Dear Judge Gabriel Ingles,

Maayong Pasko.

I write after reading the headline of Cebu Daily News (December 20, 2008) regarding a statement that Cebu judges are drafting a statement "condemning threats made by local government units to withold allowances of judges who make decisions unfavorable to local officials."
Judge, if it is possible I would like to have a copy of this statement for circulation/publication in our local newspapers.
Maybe you can email a scanned copy, if it is not too much to ask.
I anticipate this to be a bold statement for judicial independence.
I think, based on my experience in handling cases involving local government units and officials, it is very important to maintain the independence of the judiciary.
I also think it is time that any form of allowance to judges by local government units should be discontinued.
I commend and appreciate that concientious judges like you, have waived allowances from local governments, as the news reported.
This should be followed by all judges, not only in Cebu, but in the entire country.
It appears that sometimes, there are some local officials who arrogantly evoke a posture of judicial invincibility everytime they are hurled in court, or everytime they harrass a citizen to court.
Some people cannot avoid but somehow think---rightly or wrongly---that this misplaced arrogrance by some local officials has a connection with the public funds that are chanelled to the local courts and to judges (and even city prosecutors) themselves, as reflected in the local government budget.
Of course, no one is accusing that judges or prosecutors can be influenced by reason, or in consideration of the allowances that local government units provide for the local courts.
But sometimes, one cannot help but be suspicious.
Since judges are supposed to be beyond reproach, above suspicion, I think it is better for the admnistration of justice that once and for all, any form of allowance should no longer be allowed.
Perhaps judges can, as a start, voluntarily waive the allowances like what you have done.
We will campaign in the Supreme Court to disallow this practice altogether.
Anyway, the salaries and allowances of judges have already been increased.
Our concern is that if this ugly pratice is not stopped, inevitably, somewhere down the road, some local officials might think---albeit erroneously---that the regular allowances to judges have some strings attached.
In any event, whatever benefits are derived by the granting of allowances to judges (or prosecutors) by local governments, are far outweighed by the higher interests of maintaining the independence of the judiciary.

Daghang salamat, judge.
Merry Christmas to you and your famiy.

Very truly yours,
Jay Dejaresco

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