US report: RP judiciary corrupt, inefficient

Published by rudy Date posted on February 27, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – A US State Department report said corruption and inefficiency in the judicial system have undermined human rights in the Philippines and caused “widespread skepticism” of due process.

“The law provides for an independent judiciary; however, the judicial system suffered from corruption and inefficiency,” the State Department’s 2008 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in the Philippines released yesterday said.

“Personal ties and sometimes bribery resulted in impunity for some wealthy or influential offenders and contributed to widespread skepticism that the judicial process could ensure due process and equal justice,” the report said.

“Trials were delayed, and procedures were prolonged. Corruption was a problem throughout the criminal justice system,” the report said.

The report also said political killings and disappearances “dropped dramatically” in recent years “following increased domestic and international scrutiny.”

But the report said some members of the security forces continued to abuse detainees physically and psychologically and there were instances of torture.

Prisoners awaiting trial and those already convicted were often held under primitive conditions, the report said.

Leftwing and human rights activists were often subjected to harassment by local security forces. Problems such as violence against women, abuse of children, child prostitution, trafficking in persons, child labor, and ineffective enforcement of workers’ rights were common, the report also said.

The report also cited abuses by the New People’s Army, particularly its liquidation of government officials and perceived civilian enemies.

The rebel group’s recruitment of child soldiers was also noted in the report. The use of children for combat or auxiliary roles was also common in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and in the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.

The report also cited inroads in judicial reforms initiated by the Supreme Court.

It mentioned, for example, the dismissal in September of a Court of Appeals justice and the disciplining of four others for their roles in a bribery scandal. In October the high court denied the motions for reconsideration filed by these justices.

The report also said time limits for the resolution of cases appeared ineffective.

The law provides that cases should be resolved within set time limits once submitted for decision – 24 months for the Supreme Court, 12 months for the Court of Appeals and three months for the lower courts.

“However, these time limits were not mandatory and, in effect, there were no time limits for trials. Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem. Anecdotal evidence suggested that, in practice, trials can take six years or more,” the US report said.- PIA LEE-BRAGO, Philippine Star

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