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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations

Philippine Statement
Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Philippines
to the United Nations
The Philippine Experience
20 April 2009 at the Helmsley Hotel, New York



Excellencies, Distinguished Panelists,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am given ten minutes only. Thus, I will just read salient portions of my written paper. The full text would be provided you, either to rob you of your precious time or for your reading pleasure.

Let me begin by commending the organizers of this meeting and congratulating the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group, assisted by the Rule of Law Unit, for preparing and conceptualizing the Joint Strategic Plan whose vision is the UN’s vision of a just, secure and peaceful world governed by the Rule of Law, and whose mission is for the Group to work together and in support of one another, in the spirit of shared values and principles, which are aligned with the aspirations of the Group’s partners at international and national levels.

Undoubtedly, the Joint Strategic Plan is a masterpiece of a program of action to achieve a mission-vision much awaited for by a world yearning for the supremacy of the Rule of Law, and not of men.

My assigned task is to give an overview of how donor coordination in the area of Rule of Law support and advancement has worked in my country – the Philippines. More specifically, I shall dwell on this topic on the basis of my own personal experience as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines and head of the Philippine Judiciary from 30 November 1998 until the midnight of 19 December 2005 upon reaching age 70, the mandatory age of retirement for Justices and Judges in the Philippines. In the course of my public service as such, the Philippine Judiciary received financial and technical assistance from the UN through the UNDP and the World Bank, donor countries and other development partners for various activities of the Philippine Judiciary on the promotion and advancement of the Rule of Law.

I started my tenure as Chief Justice with a vision-mission statement embodied in a document entitled: “THE DAVIDE WATCH: LEADING THE PHILIPPINE JUDICIARY AND THE LEGAL PROFESSION TOWARDS THE THIRD MILLENNIUM” . It became the vision - mission for the Philippine Judiciary. It envisions a judiciary that is independent, effective and efficient and worthy of public trust and confidence and a legal profession that provides quality, ethical, accessible and cost-effective legal service to the people and is willing and able to answer the call to public service. It declares that the administration of justice must be geared to achieve the goal of delivering fair, impartial and swift justice. Hence, the core values of the rule of law, equal justice, judicial independence, and the pursuit of excellence should be preserved and at all times be predominant.

I have always maintained that the judiciary is the protector of the rights and freedoms of the people, the last bulwark of democracy, and the guardian of the Rule of Law. Hence, at all times it must be truly independent, discharge its duties effectively and efficiently, and maintain public confidence. Pursuit of excellence demands that judges and court personnel are not only qualified, competent, and men of honesty and integrity; they must perform their duties with passion and dedication to fulfill the public trust character of their office.

From the United Nations definition of the Rule of Law, which includes, inter alia, these universal principles of: laws publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards; supremacy of law; equality before the law; accountability to the law; fairness in the application of the law; legal certainty; avoidance of arbitrariness, and procedural and legal transparency, it is abundantly clear that an independent, effective and efficient judiciary is indispensable to the protection, promotion and enhancement of the Rule of Law. Toward that end, the Supreme Court of the Philippines implemented the most comprehensive reform package for the Philippine Judiciary embodied in a document entitled Action Program for Judicial Reform (APJR).

The APJR builds on previous efforts by the Supreme Court, including the Technical Assistance to the Philippine Judiciary on Justice and Development Project provided by the UNDP, which resulted in the production of the “Blueprint of Action for the Judiciary”, and various diagnostic studies undertaken pursuant to the first World Bank grant [Assessment of Past Judicial Reform Efforts; Formulation of Administrative Resolution Mechanism; Review of the Barangay Justice System; Assessment of the Impact of Judicial Education and Directions for Change and Development; and Formulation of a Medium Term Public Investment Program for the Judiciary]. These diagnostic studies established baseline data that provided the rationale for the proposed investments for the Judiciary, which have been identified in the Blueprint, as well. These also provided the basis for the development of concrete projects and activities to realize the Judiciary’s vision-mission.

The APJR is composed of six major components, namely: (1) Judicial Systems and Procedures component, (2) Institutions Development component, (3) Human Resource Development component, (4) Institutional Integrity Development component, (5) Access to Justice by the Poor component, (6) Reform Support Systems component.

The Judicial Systems and Procedures component deals with the administration of cases and courts. Initiatives on alternative dispute resolutions, computerized case management systems, streamlined court rules and similar activities are programmed in this component.

The Institutions Development component seeks to put in place the mechanisms necessary to strengthen the Judiciary as an institution independent from other branches of government; create the systems to implement the constitutionally-mandated fiscal autonomy of the Judiciary, as well as personnel and financial policies that will give the Judiciary the flexibility needed to address the many demands upon it; and to strengthen accountability mechanisms to assure the people that the Philippine Judiciary will remain their Judiciary.

The Human Resource Development component seeks to improve the Judiciary’s human resource base consisting of judges and court personnel, and covers improvements in the selection, hiring, education, promotion and remuneration of the Judiciary’s manpower.

The Institutional Integrity Development component addresses concerns about graft and corruption in the Judiciary, places mechanisms to detect and punish dishonest and corrupt practices in the Bar and Bench and institutes integrity infrastructure which sustains the strengthening of moral values and promotes ethical conduct.

The Access to Justice by the Poor component ensures that the marginalized and the vulnerable sectors of society will always have affordable but efficient means of attaining justice.

The Reform Support Systems component installs the mechanism to ensure the sustainability of the reform efforts. The focus of this component is public education, information and communication under the principle that generating public awareness and understanding of the functions and role of the Judiciary in society will encourage the people to support and advocate for the courts and consider them as their courts.

The comprehensiveness and magnitude of the APJR posed the challenge of proper phasing, sequencing and managing the projects such that everything would be synchronized and seamlessly integrated.

The APJR attracted major international stakeholders which believe that an independent judiciary is indispensable in promoting democracy; in protecting the rights and freedoms of the people; in advocating and promoting the Rule of Law and good governance; and in contributing to national development and stability. They were prepared to help us in achieving the objectives of the various components. What became crucial was coordination with and management of donor agencies (bilateral and multilateral). The APJR as a document may appear to them as a list of projects and opportunities to provide assistance to. Donors, too, have their preferences and interests. The recipient of the assistance must be able to decide for itself and present sincerely to the donors the areas that it needs the most assistance; otherwise, there would be duplication of projects/efforts which would only waste time and resources. In this regard, conferences and workshops with interested donors and development partners were conducted to explain to and enlighten them on the APJR. We did the same to other stakeholders of the justice system such as agencies of the Government, civil society and the community as a whole to maintain proper working relations and coordination with them. This aspect was crucial because the reforms in the judiciary must be closely interlinked with the national efforts to promote the Rule of Law and good governance. We then established strong linkages and ensure coordination with the executive and legislative departments in planning through the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan, without, in any way, compromising the independence of the judiciary.

To achieve a rationalized pursuit and coordination and monitoring of the efforts to implement the reform program and the projects covered by the APJR, the Supreme Court created a Program Management Office (PMO). Its primary mandate is to manage the entire reform process and ensure the coordination and full participation of the different stakeholders. In this regard, the PMO conducted dialogues and consultation workshops with the various stakeholders of its justice system; and to assist it in the effective dissemination of information we designed and advocacy plan and produced several information materials.

Through the PMO, two annual conferences with the donors were conducted to assess the accomplishments (even failures) and to adopt strategies for future action. Also, the PMO regularly met with individual donors for agenda assessment and monitoring. The entire Philippines judiciary was intensively and extensively involved in the APJR to ensure that they could claim ownership thereof and their support to it maintained and strengthened.

During my time, the Philippine Judiciary was very fortunate to have found international development partners who supported the implementation of projects designed to implement the six components of the APJR. The Supreme Court of the Philippines as well as its education arm, the Philippine Judicial Academy, in some cases, had several ongoing and pipeline projects under the APJR with full support from- arranged in alphabetical order - the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Australian Agency for International Development (AUSAID), Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), European Commission (EC), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the World Bank.

The USAID grants were either directly done by it or through the Asia Foundation or the American Bar Association – Rule of Law Initiative.

They were involved in a number of projects: Five for ADB; four for AusAID; seven for CIDA; two for the EC; fifteen for UNDP; twenty-nine for USAID; and four for the World Bank, the last of which is the Judicial Reform Support Project, one of which includes a soft loan of US $21.9 million dollars for the construction of three model e-courts, one of which was completed last year. A list of all these projects, with remarks on their status as of 27 March 2009, is annexed to my paper.

Mr. Anthony Toft, Chief Counsel, East-Asia and Pacific, Legal Vice Presidency of the World Bank, who is with us, can say more on the Bank’s invaluable contribution to the Philippine Judiciary in general and to the Rule of Law in particular.

In connection with the Institutional Integrity Development component, the Supreme Court adopted the New Code ofJudicial Conduct for the Philippines Judiciary and the Code of Conductfor Court Personnel, both of which took effect on 01 June 2004. Canon 1 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct expressly provides that Judicial Independence is a prerequisite to the Rule of Law and a fundamental guarantee of a fair trial. Seminars on these Codes were conducted throughout the Philippines, with financial assistance from the ABA-Rule of Law Initiative. The latter also funded the publication of an annotation on the New Code of Judicial Conduct.

The Supreme Court also launched the Public Education Rule of Law Advancement and Support (PERLAS) project which was designed to propagate the Rule of Law principles among students. This involved the support of the Department of Education with financial assistance from The Asia Foundation (TAF).

My tenure as Chief Justice ended with the hosting by the Supreme Court of the Philippines, with the assistance of the UNDP, WB, ADB, USAID, AusAID, The Asia Foundation (TAF), CIDA, ABA-Asia Law Initiative, and the British Council, of the International Conference and Showcaseon Judicial Reforms. It was held in the Philippines on 28-30 November 2005, less than a month before my retirement. Forty-six countries, including some from Africa, Europe, Latin American were represented. Three hundred and five, including twenty-one Chief Justices or Presidents of Supreme Courts or Constitutional Courts and about sixty other justices attended this conference.

The conference decided to establish the Asia-Pacific Judicial Reform Forum and the Judicial Reform Network 21 where justices in the region can share experiences and help in efforts to reform the judiciary.

Needless to state any further, more would be accomplished in the area of Rule of Law support for advancement in all aspects and in all fields if through the UN there could be an effective and efficient CCC approach – the acronym for Coherence, Coordination and Cooperation.

I thank you.

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