Saturday, 4 September 2010

Trial by Jury in The Philippines

The Philippines today practices a judicial system where courts are controlled and verdicts are handed down by judges. Judges appointed by officials. That causes a compromise for the fulfillment of constitutional provisions.
One such way is how the sovereignty and power of the people should be what illuminates the authority bestowed on public servants as provided by the Article II, Section I of the Constitution. Bench trials, most importantly, are prone to the vicious fangs of influence and bribery. A judge can be easily coerced into decisions by higher-ups who assign them into the courtroom. Or by rich defendants using cold, hard cash. Or by cold-blooded killers who can threaten them and their families’ lives.
Now, how can we remedy this? How do we empower the ordinary, but sovereign, people to be able to hand down decisions of grave importance? How do we avoid the intimidation of those who handle our cases? How do we serve justice equally for men of influence and men of slums? How do we put the judicial system back into perspective?
By adapting the Trial By Jury System.
In using following this, a panel of registered voters, people of the private sector, are convened into two major types of juries. The Grand Jury, which decides whether or not there is enough evidence to indict a defendant and try him in court. And the Trial Jury, which decides on cases which are under the privilege of law triable by jury.
That implementation “is the only anchor yet imagined by man that can hold a government to the principles of its constitution” in Thomas Jefferson’s words. When you think about its merits, you will realize how it could be the next best thing to happen to the Philippines since independence.
Since these juries work independently and may not be influenced by people in power like judges or public officials, they have the total confidence and ability to indict or convict anyone from the lowliest of hobos, to the highest of authorities. This ensures the principle of justice being blind. Power-blind, money-blind and color-blind.
The jury system itself is independence. It breaks courts from the bondage of the corruption. It frees the people to use the power their Constitution has given them. After all, bullying a 12-man jury would be much of a longshot compared to paying one judge for a verdict in your favor.
A big plus is that this raises civic participation in the legal system. When people decide trials, they get involved. And involvement is what uplifts people to a level where people in the seat of power are aware of the capability of the masses. This is real Representative Democracy.
A body in our country is currently lobbying for an initiative by the people to implement a Grand Jury System here called the “People’s Jury Initiative.” They are preparing a national election/plebiscite, targeted for 2010, to put the system into action.

Of course, jury trials, like any other method created by man, would never be flawless. As former US President Jimmy Carter says,
“The law is not the private property of lawyers, nor is justice the exclusive province of judges and juries. In the final analysis, true justice is not a matter of courts and law books, but of a commitment in each of us to liberty and mutual respect.”
Justice starts with our own works, and how we treat other people. But, in the end, we can likely put our faith more confidently in a system presided over by our peers rather than bureaucratic puppets. Would you agree?

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