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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jury System for the Philippines

Well, after a facebook discussion with a friend and the recent acquittal of a bunch of criminals in the Philippines, I decided to talk about jury system here. Back in 2006, I received a letter that I was summon for a jury duty for the month of June. Then another one in December 2009 and again in August 2010. Although, I was selected to the final 30 a couple of times but I was never pick to the final 12.

Jury duty is a civic duty. It is compulsory to everyone who was not a lawyer, a judge or a criminal. Some people do not like it because it interrupts their plan/schedules or they do not have interests about the law or the trials. Others saw it as a learning experience and a chance to contribute to the community. For me, as a political science student and as an immigrant, it was a learning experience. I lived here in New Zealand for a long time now but I was never a citizen. I am just a resident. However, I have the right to vote during elections and get summon for jury duty. So, if I can participate or get selected to jury duty in another country, even though I am not a naturalized citizen there, then how come I can't do that on my own country (Philippines).

What is "Jury System"?

Jury system is a random selection system that ensures public/civil-based trial juries. The people convicting the offenders are purely democratic. "Its JUSTICE SYSTEM wherein the FUNDAMENTAL enforcers of its rule of law are the common people and not their government, be it federal, state, or local governments through the Grand Jury and Trial Jury Systems."

However, the real question is, will the jury system fit the Philippines?

Jury system has its flaws when you introduce or practice jury duties in the Philippines. Just like every election in the Philippines, where rich can buy votes and for the poor, elections means being paid to vote and it is a popularity contest. In a jury system, the people will decide the fate of the defendant but if the defendant is rich enough to buy the conscience, the voting decision, and the principles of the juries then its pretty much just like the old system. If corrupt politicians can buy their way into public office, then a rich criminal can buy his way out of a trial.

Of course, that does not mean we should not have a jury system in the Philippines. The flaws of the jury system are nothing compare to the flaws of the current corrupt judicial system in the country. If I have my way, I will overhaul the entire Philippine system, from politics to economy, from judiciary to the corrupt society. Why just advocate to reform part of the corrupt system? Why just reform the judiciary system? How about reform the entire corrupt and flawed system?

Anyway, we can reform or overhaul part of the system or the entire system but if the political mindset of the people remains unchanged and the politicians they elect continue to be irresponsible elites then we do not deserve to be a democracy. Who else are the ones voting the corrupt politicians into office. Corrupt politicians do not elect themselves, the people are. In other words, corrupt people always vote for corrupt politicians.

The easiest path to overhaul an entire system or a society is to stage a revolution or launch a military coup. However, such practices are not much of a norm these days and the people will surely oppose it. Another way is to introduce reforms slowly but legitimately. Replacing part of the system one by one but at the risk of integrating it with the corrupt practices, as pointed out with the flaws of the jury system. Although, the jury system have its flaws but such flaws are only possible if the defendant is rich or when the trials last for more than two days or a week (usually a high profile case). Ultimately, Jury System will end the corrupt system in which justice is only available to the rich Filipinos. 

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