CHIEF JUSTICE Speaks on Civil Society’s Role in Development



In a rare public appearance, the 21st Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, Hon. Artemio V. Panganiban, spoke at the AIM Policy Center’s 51st Globalization Lecture on a Judicial Perspective on the Role of Civil Society in Advocating Economic Development. The forum, held on March 23, 2006 at the Manila Peninsula Hotel, aimed to identify ways in which civil society can get involved in economic development, to assess the potential benefits and possible limitations of that involvement, and to suggest ways in which civil society can contribute to effective, equitable, and democratic governance.

In the keynote speech, Chief Justics Panganiban emphasized his judicial philosophy of “safeguarding liberty and nurturing the prosperity of our people.” He extended this philosophy to his perspective on civil society’s role in economic development, arguing that civil society can aid development by exercising its liberties within legal boundaries and teaching the poor and disenfranchised the same.

“Civil society assists the three great branches of government in their common effort to uplift our people from the plagues of misgovernance, tyranny, poverty, and want,” he stated. Civil society “has the capability to mobilize power among the nation’s poor, as well as influence the government in reforming specific anti-poor policies and practices, especially at local levels… Civil society has much to contribute in rousing people’s consciousness through organization and advocacy within the allowed limits. Moreover, it has the capacity to equip the great masses of our people with the needed skills and abilities for them to rightfully claim their meaningful share of available assets and resources.”

Panganiban specifically enumerated three tasks that civil society can do to promote economic growth.

1. Civil society can initiate the judicial process by prosecuting or defending cases and causes that bear upon economic development.

2. Civil society should push legal empowerment or the use of the law by the poor to exercise more control over their lives.

3. Civil society can advocate collective cooperation in solving poverty.

Ms. Myrna Yao, chairperson of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women and Prof. Sonny Coloma gave reactions. Coloma noted, in his presentation, obstacles to civil society’s exercise of their judicial liberties. If civil society initiates judicial processes, Coloma argued, these processes are usually inordinately long, tedious, and cumbersome. Coloma also noted the impact of corruption and the predictability of judicial decisions on economic development.

Others on the panel, included AIM President Roberto de Ocampo, Associate Justice Angelina Sandoval-Guttierrez, Mr. Steven Rood, and AIM Dean Victoria Licuanan.

The forum was held by the AIM Policy Center in cooperation with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, USAID, the Asia Foundation, the World Bank Office Manila, the Supreme Court Action Program for Judicial Reform, BusinessWorld, and the AIM-WB Development Resource Center. The World Bank Global Development Learning Network allowed the participation of audiences in Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Angeles University Foundation in Angeles City.

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