WHY DO WE NEED A JURY SYSTEM IN THE PHILIPPINES?Daisy Brett-Holt
In the 1900s when the American Colonizers imported the basis of our present day constitution, they omitted the jury system for fear of the Filipinos undermining their authority. Their excuse was that we did not have the intellectual ability and cultural sophistication to judge our peers competently.
What was the effect of this omission on our national psyche? The Americans, the British and the Europeans took hundreds of years, many wars and conflicts to achieve the culture and political sophistication that they have now. A Jury System and a Free Press in their constitutions moulded their self-confidence and law-abiding natures.
The Filipino nation has no self-confidence and always distrusted past and present leaders for their inability to promote a just and humane society where
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14 YOU BE THE JUDGE! Introduction 15
people are free from fear, unlawful prosecution and corruption.
Although we pride ourselves with a Free Press, this freedom is only enjoyed by well-known journalists. Those in the outskirts of society and the outspoken activists fear for their lives. Only the learned judges are considered to have the knowledge, the right and the power to decide the fate of all the citizens. However, due to their judicial power, many judges chose to be corrupted by the rich and powerful rather than be fearful for their lives and livelihood.
The Filipinos have not learned and practised the right to judge their own peers. We have not matured politically. We have taken for granted our rights and duties as citizens. The poor masses even sell their votes because they doubt their votes could change the political landscape. They philosophise that at least they got something from the politicians in return for their votes.
We have lost confidence and trust in our system of government. Corruption and greed are so entrenched that they seem to be the norm.
Many Filipinos believe that all the people need is to change their attidude. This is akin to MORAL REFORM. But is this practical and achievable? Have we forgotten the saying, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”? How many of us have made New Year’s resolutions only to break them in two weeks’ time? How many have tried to stop smoking or lose weight but failed? We now know that most attempts are successful only with medical intervention like patches and drugs and / or fear of death or serious medical conditions. What more, with political will?
Another proposed solution to our social malady is GOOD GOVERNANCE. Its proponents believe that a leader who is whiter than white is incorruptible. But that just describes saints! And granted s/he exists in government, when this same leader sits on a weak and wobbly chair, s/he too would fall.
The most recent proposal is to adopt a federal form of government. A very good example is the American presidential/federal type. If it worked for the Americans, it may work well for us! However, there is something missing in this proposal—a Jury System that is embedded in the USA’s judicial system. The Jury System, practised for over 250 years has kept America stable despite being a country of immigrants from many different countries.
FEDERALISM without a Jury System already embedded in the country’s laws will strengthen political dynasties. As federal state leaders from a powerful family, they can even declare independence from the central government. Secession follows and eventually the break-up of the country.
ONLY THE JURY SYSTEM CAN BREAK OUR GOVERNMENT’S
MONOPOLY OF THE PRESENT SLOW, INEFFICIENT AND
INEFFECTIVE JUDICIAL SYSTEM.
Matthew 16:18 states: “And I tell you that you are Peter
(The Rock). And on this rock I will build my church, and
the gates of hell will not overcome it.” This implies that
man should build his house on strong foundation so that
nothing could prevail against it.
What our country needs is GOOD GOVERNANCE PLUS
A JURY SYSTEM in whatever form of government we
will eventually have, putting a check on the excesses
of politicians and all the citizens who have lost their
way in the labyrinth which we love to call democratic
The strong foundation of a true democracy must be a
Filipino People who are confident in themselves and
in the durability of the system they have built.
The success of our campaign will be our generations’
legacy to our children and the coming generations who
will thus be proud to be FILIPINOS.