CJ Peralta backs automatic probes of corruption in judiciary

MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said on Monday, October 28, that an item among his 10-point agenda in his 3-year term as top magistrate would be to weed out corrupt judges and court personnel of the judiciary.

"Continuation of weeding out of misfits from the judiciary and adoption of a system where court may initiate on its own the investigation of cases being handled by members of the judiciary even in the absence of complaints," said Peralta in his first address to Supreme Court employees as chief justice.

Peralta has been advocating for the application of the res ipsa loquitur principle, where decisions that appear irregular on its face shall be automatically investigated without the need for a complaint.

Peralta has concurred in Supreme Court decisions that dissenters on the bench said were irregular, for example, the bail grant to plunder defendant Juan Ponce Enrile, which Associate Justice Marvic Leonen called as "special accommodation."

Peralta also concurred in the flip-flop decision to declare as valid the retrenchment of Philippine Airlines (PAL) of its workers, a case "resurrected" by mere letters of PAL's lawyer, the influential Estelito Mendoza.

“It could not be another means to resurrect a case. To do so is highly irregular, suspect, and violative of due process of law," Leonen had written in his dissenting opinion.

That 7-2 decision in 2018 was not only a flip-flop on the part of the Supreme Court, but also a flip-flop for Peralta himself, who, with retired chief justice Lucas Bersamin, went from favoring the workers in 2009 to favoring PAL 9 years later.

Judicial Integrity Board

Peralta promised to get the Judicial Integrity Board (JIB) working "as soon as possible."

"Strengthen the Office of the Court Administrator and implement the Judicial Integrity Board as soon as possible," Peralta said on Monday.

The JIB was created in October 2018 under retired chief justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro. It shall be headed by a chairperson and a vice chair who should be retired justices of the Supreme Court.

The 3 regular members shall be retired justices of the Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan or Court of Tax Appeals.

Under the JIB, there should be a Corruption Prevention and Investigation Office (CPIO) which can "conduct investigation and/or intelligence, surveillance or entrapment operations or lifestyle checks to detect and identify justices, judges, and personnel, who commit or appear to be involved or are liable for" corrupt acts.

Peralta said he would also ensure an expedited process of resolving complaints.

"I plan to impose timelines in resolving administrative complaints, including complaint initiated by the court and timelines for the court to resolve this complaints," said Peralta. 

"I will lead by example," added Peralta, "each and everyone in the judicary must be guided by this motto which should now by heart, let us be united and let us follow the rules." – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.