Updates from the Philippines

Two interesting stories came out today about the Philippine Supreme Court. First, a relative of those killed in the Vizconde 1991 claims Justice Antonio Carpio improperly lobbied his colleagues to acquit defendants Hubert Webb (and six others). Carpio, so the allegations state, is a close friend of the Webb family. However, the Supreme Court Spokesman Midas Marquez dismissed the allegations as lacking evidence. As the Decider once said, bring it on!

The more interesting question is whether these allegations will tarnish Carpio’s otherwise sterling reputation. According to Filipina journalist Marites Vitug’s Shadow of Doubt, the Supreme Court is no stranger to this type of nepotism and favoritism. Yet, Carpio also came across as one of the heros of the book. After being passed over for the chief justiceship last year (see my earlier article here), Carpio has become a leading voice within the dissenters – and as such often seen as the leader against the Court’s pro-Arroyo majority (I’m not claiming this is true, but I believe the perception exists). If there is any evidence Carpio lobbied on behalf of a man accused of mass murder, then that perception might change quickly.

 The second story is an update on the continuing standoff between judges and Aquino administration over the judicial budget. Apparently, the Department of Justice made just enough promises to forestall a nationwide protest that had been planned for this Monday. The dispute had centered on salaries and pensions. Still, the very fact that the judges have had to protest and negotiate for a budget raise does not speak well to judicial independence in the Philippines. So far, I have not heard anything about the judges making any compromises to pacify the administration, but this could certainly become a risk now that the Aquino administration knows how much the salary cuts upset the judges.

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