The Philippines is struggling with extrajudicial killings and politically motivated violence. To highlight the issue and solicit ideas on how to address the problem, ABA ROLI—in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, the University of the Philippines Foundation for Integrative Development Studies, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Alternative Law Group and Centerlaw—hosted regional extrajudicial killings summits in Zamboanga, General Santos and Naga cities. Participants included prosecutors, academics, public attorneys, vetted army and police officials, representatives of civil rights organizations and journalist groups, and members of the Commission on Human Rights. The forum helped coordinate efforts and enhance stakeholders’ capacity to investigate and prosecute extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture. A total of 1,000 forensics manuals were distributed to legal professionals, and renowned international experts led discussions focused on increasing the use of physical evidence in the prosecution of human rights cases. At the beginning of the program, ABA ROLI and an international expert on forensics with extensive experience in developing nations conducted a three-day training for senior prosecutors. The training addressed crime scene investigation, using both classroom study and field investigations that simulate murder scenes and shallow gravesites for practical application.
Our anti-corruption program supports the Office of the Ombudsman’s legislative push for more effective anti-corruption enforcement. ABA ROLI is working with local legal experts and a working group of high-level officials from the ombudsman’s office to draft legislation that would assist the country to comply with its international obligations under the United Nations Convention against Corruption. Anchored on evidence-based research and analysis, the proposed legislation addresses corruption by improving evidence collection mechanisms, supporting effective asset recovery and strengthening the ombudsman’s institutional capacity. The ombudsman’s office has presented the draft legislations to congress for consideration.
Through a sub-grant to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, ABA ROLI and USAID support the Philippine Public Transparency Reporting Project, which maintains an accessible, user-friendly and educational website—“Pera Natin ‘To!” (It’s Our Money!). The website (www.transparencyreporting.net) serves as a forum for local journalists, civil society and the public to discuss, investigate and expose corruption. To encourage government transparency and accountability, the website disseminates timely and substantive information, including on governance, government anti-corruption efforts and governmental agencies’ compliance with anti-corruption laws. The project’s confidential e-mail hotline promotes increased public participation in investigating and reporting corruption. The project will train more than 200 journalists on public finance reporting, and on domestic and international corruption laws. The journalists will also receive a handbook of relevant anti-corruption and public information laws, and reporting techniques. Furthermore, the project will host public outreach events to report its findings and to promote stronger collaboration among media, civil society and local authorities. It will also establish joint media and transparency reporting groups in key locations around the country to develop suitable responses to corruption and to promote cooperation among local media and civil society.
After three years of collaboration with the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) on a successful pilot project of 44 small claims courts, the Supreme Court of Philippines decided to institutionalize the implementation of the Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases, effective March 18, 2010. The decision allows the establishment of small claims courts in all 1,137 first-level courts nationwide. Using existing court infrastructure and carefully calibrated new rules, small claims courts enable an expedited, fair and affordable resolution of everyday disputes by using template pleadings and court orders, encouraging judicially supervised settlement negotiations and streamlining procedures. The courts expand access to justice and will eventually help decongest the country’s overloaded courts. To support the new rule’s implementation, ABA ROLI and the Supreme Court have so far trained more than 700 judges and court personnel, and distributed a Small Claims Handbook containing rules of procedure and administrative guidelines. In the coming months, public outreach campaigns, including nationwide dissemination of instructional video showing the small claims process in action, will continue.
ABA ROLI, in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and Libertás—a nonpartisan association of Filipino fair-election advocates—helped the Philippine Supreme Court prepare for disputes that may arise from the first fully-automated national elections held on May 10, 2010. In February, ABA ROLI and IFES held a series of conferences on dispute resolution in automated elections for judges, election lawyers and civil society leaders. Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson and veteran election lawyer Jack Young shared lessons they learned from high-profile, automated election litigation. On April 27, 2010, the Philippine Supreme Court published the 2010 Rules of Procedure in Election Contests to guide regional trial courts in resolving election disputes. Prior to election day, more than 600 judges from the Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao regions were trained on the new rules, and about 1,000 digital reference materials—containing relevant election laws, court issuances and training lectures—were distributed. An upcoming study will assess the performance of the judiciary in handling election litigation.
Stunted by local poverty and poor governance, the first-level courts in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) lack even furnishings as basic as writing desks and evidence lockers. ABA ROLI and USAID will conduct needs assessment and equip these courts with adequate furnishings to enable them to safely and systematically store case files and evidence, including narcotics and firearms. ABA ROLI believes furnishing the courts, coupled with staff training, will allow a more efficient administration of cases, which should in turn improve public perception of the judiciary.
In 2008, the Philippine Supreme Court completed its integrity development review to identify those of its administrative and adjudicative functions that are prone to corruption. The goal was to develop control measures to minimize financial misconduct by court personnel. With support from ABA ROLI and USAID, the review was extended to appellate and trial courts nationwide. Workshops were conducted to familiarize justices and local court judges and clerks with the review process, and to solicit their input. Reforms included the introduction of whisteblower protection, an internal mechanism for financial audits and the establishment of an independent, centralized office to resolve complaints against judicial personnel in a more timely and transparent manner. Over the past year, ABA ROLI held nine training workshops for more than 400 trial court judges and court officers. In May 2010, the Justices en banc presented a judicial integrity development plan for the Supreme Court’s consideration.
Building on USAID’s 2006 court automation initiative, ABA ROLI has reconfigured the Court Management Information System (CMIS) program in the Sandiganbayan (anti-graft court), the Court of Tax Appeals and the Court of Appeals to improve the software’s functionality, operability and efficiency. Recognizing the CMIS’s potential to expedite cases and alleviate court congestion, the Philippine judiciary has asked ABA ROLI to replicate the system in the Cebu and Cagayan De Oro regional courts of appeal.
Ethical misconduct by government lawyers, while common across developing countries, is particularly acute in the Philippines. Prosecutorial lapses in the preliminary hearings of the Maguindanao massacre demonstrate this. Drawing on the expertise of its in-country and U.S.-based legal specialists, ABA ROLI is assisting the National Prosecutorial Service and the Public Attorney’s Office to improve their respective codes of ethics by providing international perspectives, relevant annotations and case studies. Once the codes are promulgated, ABA ROLI will help train prosecutors and public attorneys nationwide.
ABA ROLI and the Philippine Judicial Academy (PhilJA) are working on publishing criminal sentencing guidelines and a revised trial court benchbook. The sentencing guidelines will help judges to determine fair, complete and accurate penalties for a crime; the benchbook will serve as a concise and user-friendly resource on relevant laws, rules and best case- and docket-management practices. Once these judicial tools are published, ABA ROLI will help PhilJA train judges across the country on utilizing these tools.
In order to improve regulation, oversight, and compliance of the Supreme Court's Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) program, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) assisted the MCLE Office in a survey to assess the effectiveness of the MCLE training program and to identify areas for improvement. In August 2006, ABA ROLI provided both a train-the-trainers program and an alternative technologies training for CLE providers. ABA ROLI also partnered with the Philippine Bar Association to deliver an interactive 36-hour training program, in August and September of 2006, that fulfilled the mandatory CLE requirements for lawyers. The CLE program and the train-the-trainers program where replicated during second quarter of 2007.
To facilitate the sharing of common concerns and the exchange of ideas on how to meet professional challenges, ABA ROLI is sponsoring a series of judge-to-judge dialogues in the Philippines. Under this program, judges from the U.S. and other countries meet with judges from the Philippine supreme, appellate, and trial courts to discuss a variety of issues. Local judge-to-judge dialogues have also been held to allow judges to meet with their colleagues and discuss issues of common concern. ABA ROLI held a series of local judge-to-judge dialogues on preventing case delays in Manila, Laoag, Boracay and Zamboanga cities.
ABA ROLI partnered with the University of the Philippines Law School to develop a module for a specialized ethics course. The process involved initial training on the use of interactive teaching techniques, the development and pilot testing of the ethics course during the second semester of 2005-2006 school year, and finally the compilation of the course reading materials. The interactive nature of this course, which allows students to be actively involved during classroom discussion, is unique in the Philippines. The compiled course materials were reduced and compiled into a “module” that could be used by other Filipino law professors in teaching ethics. The module contains materials for teaching ethics in five substantive areas: family law, labor law, remedial law, corporation and securities law, and alternative dispute resolution. ABA ROLI hopes that the module will become the standard in teaching legal ethics and bring about a new era in teaching methodologies in Filipino law schools. The module was launched in February 2007 in partnership with the Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS) and the University of the Philippines Law School. Deans, law professors, and MCLE providers from around the country attended the event. Some of the UP Professors–authors shared with their colleagues their experience in developing the module, teaching the course and the use of interactive teaching methodologies. Copies of the module were distributed widely, and in particular, all member schools of PALS were given copies of the module.
In partnership with the law faculty at the Ateneo de Manila University, ABA ROLI is working to develop a curriculum for an anti-corruption course that will result in a module to be utilized by other law schools. Despite several recent measures to combat corruption in the Philippines, evidence indicates that it continues to rise. The course seeks to address why the existing legal and policy frameworks fail to address issues of corruption through a multi-disciplinary approach.
ABA ROLI assisted the Philippine Women Judges Association (PWJA) by sponsoring its seminar and annual meeting. The Honorable Jiin-Fang Lin, Chief Judge of the Taiwan District Court in Taipei and Joan Winship, Executive Director of International Association of Women Judges spoke on capacity building of the women in the judiciary. Ms. Winship additionally led a capacity-building Workshop for PWJA officers and board members. ABA ROLI conducted a strategic planning workshop with the PWJA. As a result of this workshop, ABA ROLI will support the PWJA in developing and publishing a “know your rights” brochure on gender issues, particularly with the newly enacted juvenile justice law, domestic violence law and anti-human trafficking law; to be distributed throughout the country to inform the public and local community leaders of their rights under these laws. ABA ROLI will also support a series of roundtable discussions in collaboration with the local PWJA and IBP chapters and some NGOs, to inform community leaders and citizens of their rights and to engage leaders to pursue community-coordinated activities to protect women and children in their respective province and region.
The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) supported the first bar leadership roundtable in cooperation with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Philippines Bar Association. Ms. Teresa Cannady served as moderator while Ms. Dianna Kempe, former International Bar Association president and current co-chair of the American Bar Association's Task Force on the Rule of Law, presented her recommendations on how bar associations can be leaders in the rule of law.
The main objective of this activity was to bring these two associations together to evaluate and assess their activities as community leaders and as advocates for the rule of law. The theme was “going beyond” how bar associations traditionally serve their members as a trade association, to being protectors of the public and promoters of the rule of law. The three main points included the importance of bar leadership, lawyers rendering service to the profession and to the public, and going beyond ethics rules to show respect for colleagues and the courts. Translating these concepts into reality can mean providing free legal aid, supporting public legal education, and taking a public stand as advocates for the rule of law.
The roundtable also provided an opportunity for the two associations to discuss their programs and seek avenues of cooperation. The national officers of both associations, attended the half-day discussion session. ABA ROLI will follow up with both bar associations to plan similar events in the region and to support activities designed to bring legal information to the public.