What’s Amiss with the Legal System?
AHRC Discusses with Alumni of its Internship Program
Over the years more than 500 young law students have participated
in the internship program of the Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC).
They learn about alternative lawyering and the problems the poor
face in getting justice. Many have been deeply moved by the experience,
and quite a few have entered the field of alternative lawyering
themselves. Others are now working in private law firms: the corporate
world or government. A former intern is even a current commissioner
of the Commission on Human Rights
of the Philippines
Many continue to stay in touch with the AHRC and can be tapped
for help, but so far there had been no attempt to draw on the
alumni in a systematic way. This year the AHRC, with the support
of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty, decided to remedy
this. It brought together a cross-section of its alumni in two
programs to discuss the most pressing issues concerning the state
of the rule of law in the country and to probe for possible reforms.
The first consultation was on 29 November 2008 and the second
one was on 13 December 2008. Both were held at the School
of Law, Ateneo de Manila University.
The key issues that emerged were two. One was
that widespread corruption has undercut the law, compromised
the function of institutions and excluded the poor. Since
corruption also affects the legal system including the judiciary,
the situation has become rather grim. The second issue was the
insufficient access to justice for the poor.
The question was not just one of costs but also of badly
designed systems, of complicated administrative
procedures and of legal processes that impose a huge
burden on the poor.
The group came up with several ideas for reform. These included:
abolishing some files and procedures, using technology
to make court procedures more interactive and updated
and strengthening the judiciary
so it could perform
its function with greater effectiveness.
This was only the first event in a process that AHRC promised
to continue. The hope is to eventually evolve a practical
reform agenda that would make an impact on the quality
of the rule of law. The plan is to have that ready when the next
administration takes over in 2010. That would likely be the best
opportunity of initiating a new era of reforms.
“This is the first time we consulted our alumni as a group,”
said AHRC Executive Director Attorney Carlos Medina Jr. “We
are taking directions from their ideas, and we promise to follow
it up with a focus on specific reform ideas next year.”