The Role of the 21st Century Judge in Governance

Address delivered on February 16, 2007 by retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban as resource speaker during a seminar in Cebu City sponsored by the Philippine Judicial Academy and the Values for Development Foundation.

At the outset, allow me to thank the venerable Justice Ameurfina A. Melencio-Herrera, chancellor of the Philippine Judicial Academy (PhilJA) for inviting me to be the resource speaker on “Democracy and Development: the Role of the 21st Century Judge in Governance,” a topic that forms an integral part of the two-day Seminar on “Democracy and Law at the Service of the Human Person,” jointly sponsored by the PhilJA and the Values for Development Foundation.

This topic is close to my heart. I believe it is a restatement of my own judicial philosophy of “Liberty and Prosperity Under the Rule of Law.” Liberty is another word for democracy and prosperity, for development. As you may know, I have written a new book which came out last October 2006, entitled Liberty and Prosperity. These two beacons of justice—liberty and prosperity—may also be broadly referred to as freedom and food, ethics and economics, integrity and investments.

This Seminar gives me the welcome opportunity to answer a critical question raised as a result of my initial column at the Philippine Daily Inquirer last Sunday, February 11, 2007: Did I, as Chief Justice, have a vision-mission, and did I accomplish it?

For easy understanding, let me divide my discussion into three general topics: liberty, prosperity and rule of law.

Safeguarding Liberty

Safeguarding liberty (or democracy, for that matter) has long been a traditional expectation from our courts. Their role is to be the great equalizers when individual freedoms—whether civil, political or economic—are buffeted by the awesome powers of the State and governmental institutions. These epic constitutional struggles between the government and its citizens are written in the annals of our nation’s history, to be invoked over and over, as often as challenges to individual liberty persist to this day.

Indeed, an individual becomes a majority of one when courts uphold that person’s freedom, which may have been transgressed by an unconstitutional law passed by the people’s representatives and approved by a President elected by a majority of the voters.

From the British Magna Carta, to the French Revolution, to the American Declaration of Independence, and to the Filipino struggle for nationhood as codified in the Malolos Constitution, history rings for the people’s right to participate in the political processes, including the freedom to vote and be voted for; as well as the freedoms of expression, of assembly and of religion.

A never-ending saga of trials and triumphs for the judiciary and for our people is the battle for civil liberties, especially the inviolability of our persons from illegal arrests and our homes from arbitrary searches and seizures, those guaranteeing our freedoms of abode and travel, and the so-called Miranda rights of persons accused of crimes.

Judicial Policy to Uphold Liberty

How is liberty safeguarded by the judiciary? Answer: In litigations involving civil liberties, the scales of justice should weigh heavily against the government and in favor of the people—particularly the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the dispossessed, and the weak. Laws and actions that restrict fundamental rights, like freedom of expression and of the press, come to the courts with a heavy presumption against their validity. This policy is commonly referred to as “heightened” or “strict” scrutiny.

Consistent with this policy of “strict” scrutiny, the Supreme Court last year—during my incumbency as Chief Justice—promulgated three landmark decisions involving (1) Executive Order 464 in which the right of Congress to summon executive officials for investigations in aid of legislation, in conjunction with the people’s right to information on matter of public concern was upheld; [1] (2) the so-called Calibrated Preemptive Response (CPR) policy which was scuttled, as the High Court ruled in favor of the people’s right to peaceful assembly for a redress of grievances; [2] and (3) Presidential Proclamation 1071 in which the fundamental rights of the people under a “state of national emergency” [3] were recognized. Verily, in all these pivotal cases, the Supreme Court upheld the primacy of civil liberties over governmental actions.

Nurturing Prosperity

While safeguarding liberty is a fairly common task for the judiciary, nurturing prosperity is something even seasoned jurists and lawyers may not all readily understand and agree with. Some may even disagree with the proposition that judges should exert conscious thought and effort to nurture progress. After all, the traditional realm of the judiciary had been confined to the determination of legality, not economic viability.

It is equally true that the two political branches of government—meaning the Presidency and Congress—have been given the primary responsibility of promoting the economic well-being of the country. Nonetheless, I maintain that the judiciary has a similar duty to nurture prosperity and to alleviate poverty. I have three major reasons for my position.

First, our 1987 Constitution contains several provisions involving the economic rights of our people, which the judiciary is mandated to protect and enforce. Thus, our fundamental law [4] commands the State to “promote a just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty x x x.”

Equally significant is Article XII, which is devoted in its entirety to “National Economy and Patrimony,” the goals of which are set forth without equivocation: “a more equitable distribution of opportunities, income and wealth; a sustained increase in the amount of goods and services produced by the nation for the benefit of the people; and an expanding productivity as the key to raising the quality of life for all, especially the underprivileged.” [5] We can truly say that in our country, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s famous “freedom from want” [6] has been constitutionalized. What we need is a responsive government to implement it and a prudent judiciary to enforce it.

It is also clear that the Constitution does not contemplate palliatives as the solution to our economic woes. Donations and dole-outs, while welcome, cannot constitute the promise of prosperity that the fundamental law holds out. What the spirit and the letter of the Constitution demand is the institutionalization of social justice. Thus, the Constitution expressly ordains as follows:

“The Congress shall give highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity, reduce social, economic and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequities by equitably diffusing wealth and political power for the common good.

“To this end, the State shall regulate the acquisition, ownership, use and disposition of property and its increments.” [7]

But the Constitution does not end by merely directing that priority be given to social justice. It further decrees that “[t]he promotion of social justice shall include the commitment to create economic opportunities based on freedom of initiative and self-reliance.” [8] In so doing, it subscribes to the classical thought that social justice is a matter of distributive justice; that is, all social groups participate equitably in the resources, the patrimony and the progress of the nation. Hence, the systematic and systemic exclusion of any social group from the blessings of prosperity constitutes social injustice.

The Private Sectors Efforts to Alleviate Poverty

Second, these social justice mandates of our Constitution are matched with equal fervor by the private sector globally and nationally.

Hear this. Some of the most learned minds in the world today have called attention to the abysmal gap between the haves and the have-nots. Thus, they propose ingenious solutions to economic deprivation and want. In his new book, The End of Poverty, [9] Jeffrey D. Sachs holds that freedom and equality are meaningless to people who wallow in grinding poverty, debilitating disease and inexplicable hunger.

He argues that the United States spent 450 billion dollars in 2005 to sustain its military superiority, but would “never buy peace if it continues to spend only around one thirtieth of that [sum], just 15 billion dollars, to address the plight of the world’s poorest of the poor, whose societies are destabilized by extreme poverty and thereby become havens of unrest, violence, and even global terrorism.” [10]

With the same fervor, Time magazine’s Persons of the Year’ for 2005—the world’s richest multi-billionaire couple Bill and Melinda Gates; and rock star Bono—have come down from their fabulous nests of luxurious living to save 700,000 lives through vaccinations and public health care.

“The Gateses, having built the world’s biggest charity with 29 billion dollars endowment [an amount equal to what the World Health Organization disburses], spent the year (2005) giving more money away faster than anyone ever has, including nearly half a billion dollars for the Grand Challenges, in which they asked the very best brains in the world how they would solve a huge problem, like inventing a vaccine that needs no needles and no refrigeration, if they had the money to do it.” [11]

It seems to me that Bill Gates now devotes more of his time and genius to spending his fortune prudently than to earning it feverishly. [12]

In turn, Bono, reports Time, “charmed and bullied and morally blackmailed the leaders of the world’s richest countries into forgiving 40 billion dollars in debt owed by the poorest. Now these countries can spend the money on health and schools rather that interest payments, and have no more excuse for not doing so.” [13]

The Gateses’ and Bono’s redefinition of generosity “is not about pity. It is more about passion. Pity sees the suffering and wants to ease the pain; passion sees injustice and wants to settle the score. Pity implores the powerful to pay attention; passion warns about what will happen if they don’t. The risk of pity is that it kills with kindness; the promise of passion is that it builds on the hope that the poor are fully capable of helping themselves if given the chance.”

The Gateses’ passion for philanthropy in alleviating the world’s poverty and diseases drew a mind-boggling 30 billion dollars worth of stocks in blue-chip Berkshire Hathaway, given by investment guru Warren Buffett. [14]

In our country, the imperatives of social responsibility in the systematic dispersal of private wealth to alleviate poverty has, in the private sector, been pioneered by the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP). Member-companies of PBSP contribute a fixed percentage of their net incomes to a common fund to pursue humanitarian causes.

Along the same line, the big business conglomerates—like Ayala, Metrobank, PLDT, YGC, Aboitiz; and those of Taipans Henry Sy, Lucio Tan, John Gokongwei,[15] and Emilio Yap—have formed their own philanthropic foundations to pursue educational, health, livelihood, and other social causes designed to minimize poverty and to help the people help themselves.

Other noteworthy causes include media outreaches like Bantay Bata of ABS-CBN and the Kapuso Foundation ofGMA 7; pro-poor programs of religious groups like Catholic Charities and Pondong Pinoy; and civil society groups like Gawad Kalinga, led by Antonio Meloto who recently merited a Ramon Magsaysay Award. I believe that the only justification for accumulating enormous wealth is the zeal and the ability to distribute it wisely to the needy and the hungry.

Third, not to be outdone, the world’s most important developmental institutions, like the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have learned over the years that their goals of alleviating poverty and propelling economic growth cannot be attained, unless there is “a well-functioning judicial system [that] enables the State to regulate the economy and empower private individuals to contribute to economic development by confidently engaging in business, investments and other transactions.”

This stance explains why the UNDP is passionate about broadening the poor’s access to justice; why the WB wants “an effective and efficient judicial system that protects citizens from the abuses of government and safeguards the rights of the poor”; [16] and why the ADB desires “to enhance the effectiveness and the accountability of the judiciary.” [17]

The foregoing pronouncements of our Constitution, as well as the activist efforts of the worldwide and local business/philanthropic sectors and the supportive stance of international developmental institutions to help the human race buttress my belief that political liberty, the clarion call of the past, must continuously be safeguarded in the present and in the future, if we must be true to Wendell Phillip’s reminder that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

However, I am equally persuaded that the prosperity of our people requires as much nurturing in the present century as that accorded to liberty in the past. To be relevant, courts must be constantly attuned to the needs of he present and the vagaries of the future, so that they can respond timely and prudently to the people’s ever-expanding well-being.

The Judiciarys Response to the Call for Poverty Alleviation

Truly, no one in this country—whether in the government or outside—can ignore these three developments favoring the pursuit of prosperity and development. Judges cannot close their eyes to these stark realities that grinding poverty, crampling disabilities, and debilitating diseases are anathema to freedom and democracy. The vital question for us this morning is: how can, and how has, in fact, the judiciary responded to the call for the alleviation of poverty, disease and disability?

Answer: In litigations affecting prosperity, development and the economy, the courts—as a matter of policy—must defer as much as possible, to the actions of the political branches of government, namely the Presidency and Congress. This approach is referred to as the “deferential” interpretation of laws and executive actions.

And how has this judicial policy been implemented by the Supreme Court in its decisions? Let me cite two specific cases.

In Tanada v. Angara [18], the Court deferred to the wisdom of the Senate when it upheld that legislative body’s consent to the Philippine ratification of the World Trade Organization Agreement. To demonstrate this deference more vividly, I would like to quote portions of the Decision, as follows:

“It is not impossible to surmise that this Court, or at least some of its members, may even agree with petitioners that it is more advantageous to the national interest to strike down Senate Resolution No. 97 (which embodied the Upper House’s consent to the ratification of the WTO Treaty). But that is not a legal reason to attribute grave abuse of discretion to the Senate and to nullify its decision. To do so would constitute grave abuse in the exercise of our own judicial power and duty. Ineludably, what the Senate did was a valid exercise of its authority. As to whether such exercise was wise, beneficial or viable is outside the realm of judicial inquiry and review. That is a matter between the elected policy makers and the people. As to whether the nation should join the worldwide march toward trade liberalization and economic globalization is a matter that our people should determine in electing their policy makers. x x x.”

This laissez-faire judicial policy on economic issues was reiterated in La Bugal-Blaan Tribal Association v. Ramos, [19] which affirmed the constitutionality of the Mining Law allowing 100-percent foreign investments in large-scale mining. Thus, the Court held thus:

“x x x. The Constitution should be read in broad, life-giving strokes. It should not be used to strangulate economic growth or to serve narrow, parochial interest. Rather, it should be construed to grant the President and Congress sufficient discretion and reasonable leeway to enable them to attract foreign investments and expertise, as well as to secure for our people and our posterity the blessings of prosperity and peace.”

Rule of Law

The last key words are “rule of law.” The safeguarding of liberty and the nurturance of prosperity must always be planned, worked on and carried out in accordance with and within the limitations contained in pre-agreed rules and procedures.

Let me give some parallels in our common experiences. Every sport has rules. When these rules are violated, a foul is called and, depending on the gravity of the act, the offender is penalized. No team, no matter how talented or strong, can win without following the rules. Thus, when a basketball player “forces” himself on the opposite team, a foul is called and the basket made is not counted. The referees cannot award the trophy, until the game is finished within the prescribed period. And after the regulation time, no basket may be counted.

In the same manner, no person may be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. In their impatience, some people resort to short cuts and condemn an accused because time-consuming “procedures” should not stand in the way of “justice.” If the accused is obviously guilty because his crime had been committed in the full view of cameras, why should the State waste valuable time and resources in hearing and trying him? Just jail him, period. So they say.

There is an inherent danger in this argument. When people ignore the rule of law and belittle due process, they really abet authoritarianism. What differentiates libertarianism from authoritarianism or dictatorship is the rule of law. No person, no matter how powerful or talented, can be above the law. Everyone, rich or poor, powerful or powerless, must follow pre-agreed rules.

The rule of law also differentiates democracy from the rule of the mob. The mere fact that the gallery wants a team to win despite violations of the rules will not entitle that team to the trophy. In the same manner, the mere fact that, allegedly, six million people have lodged a petition [20] to initiate changes in our Constitution in violation of the constitutional procedures governing amendments and revisions is of no moment; it cannot be allowed. The rule of law will not allow short cuts and bully tactics. The end never justifies the means.

In a speech before the Global Forum on Liberty and Prosperity held in Makati on October 18-20, 2006, Canadian Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin exclaimed that the “rule of law is the cornerstone of all democratic societies… without the rule of law, government officials are not bound by standards of conduct. Without the rule of law, the dignity and equality of all people is not affirmed and their ability to seek redress for grievances and societal commitments is limited. Without the rule of law, we have no means of ensuring meaningful participation by people in formulating and enacting the norms and standards which organize the kind of societies in which we want to live.”


Ladies and gentlemen, a year ago, on January 16, 2006, I had an interesting round-table discussion with Professor William Easterly, who had recently published a much-acclaimed book entitled Elusive Quest for Growth. Among the discussants were Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, former Prime Minister Cesar Virata, former National Economic and Development Authority Director-General Felipe Medalla, Senator (and Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair) Ralph Recto, Banker Vitaliano Nañagas, Economist Romeo Bernardo, Business Leader Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala II, Professor Alex Magno, IMF Resident Representative Reza Baqir, and World Bank Country Director Joaquim von Amsberg (the dinner host).

Professor Easterly opined that most economically advanced countries—like the United States [21] and many states comprising the European Union—had adopted liberal democracy, in which human rights were zealously protected. [22] He added that under these benign regimes, entrepreneurs felt comfortable and thus invested their money for the long term.

When confronted with other models of economic prosperity like China, [23] Singapore, [24] and Chile, Professor Easterly conceded that there was no single formula for rapid economic growth. He theorized though, that for the long term, liberty must still stand side by side with prosperity as the durable formula for lasting economic success.

To my mind, the peculiar facts and distinct circumstances of the Philippines make the formula “Liberty and Prosperity Under the Rule of Law” still the most viable economic and judicial philosophy here. After all, during the years of Martial Law, authoritarian rule was proven to be incapable of producing meaningful long-term economic progress. Even more important, our people value their freedoms very dearly and will not exchange them for food. Indeed, the Filipinos may endure occasional hunger, but they will never tolerate injustice and indignity for long.

In the past, judges confined themselves to mere legalisms and narrow interpretations of the Constitution and the law, and left governance issues completely in the hands of the political branches of the government. However, I believe that the present Constitution and the contemporary events I mentioned have made it imperative for judges to participate in governance, especially as it relates to the preservation of our democracy, the pursuit of development and the observance of the rule of law.

Finally, our 1987 Constitution has imposed upon the entire judiciary, the duty — not just the power — to strike down grave abuse of discretion committed by any branch or instrumentality of the government, including the Executive and Legislative Departments. By imposing upon all judges the burden to determine issues of grave abuse of discretion, our Constitution has thereby commanded them to be activists in protecting people’s political rights and in promoting their economic well-being. And by prudently exercising this constitutional duty, the 21st century judges are really pursuing their proper roles in the governance of our country. [25]

Maraming salamat po.


Address delivered on February 16, 2007 by retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban as resource speaker during a seminar in Cebu City sponsored by the Philippine Judicial Academy and the Values for Development Foundation.

[1] Senate v. Ermita, GR No. 169777, April 20, 2006. More accurately, the Court invalidated the major provisions of Executive Order No. 464. In its simplest terms, the Decision held that Congress had the right to compel the appearance of executive officials in congressional investigations, because the power of legislative inquiry was as broad as the power to legislate. Hence, held to be unconstitutional were the provisions of EO 464 that allowed the Executive Branch to evade congressional requests for information without properly invoking executive privilege in recognized instances. Nonetheless, the Court directed Congress to indicate, in its invitation to executive officials, the subject matter of the inquiry and of related questions, so that the President or the Executive Secretary could properly invoke executive privilege, if warranted.

To the extent that investigations in aid of legislation were to be generally conducted in public, the Court held that “any executive issuance tending to unduly limit disclosures of information in such investigations necessarily deprives the people of information which, being presumed to be in aid of legislation, is presumed to be a matter of public concern. The citizens are thereby denied access to information which they can use in formulating their own opinions on the matter before Congress – – opinions which they can communicate to their representatives and other government officials through the various legal means allowed by their freedom of expression. x x x.”

[2] Bayan v. Ermita, GR No. 169838, April 25, 2006. This ponencia, penned by Justice Adolfo S. Azcuna, stated thus:

“x x x[T]his Court reiterates its basic policy of upholding the fundamental rights of our people, especially freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. In several policy addresses, Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban has repeatedly vowed to uphold the liberty of our people and to nurture their prosperity. He said that ‘in cases involving liberty, the scales of justice should weigh heavily against the government and in favor of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the dispossessed and the weak. Indeed, laws and actions that restrict fundamental rights come to the courts with a heavy presumption against their validity. These laws and actions are subjected to heightened scrutiny.”

[3] David v. Arroyo, GR No. 171396, May 3, 2006. Writing for the majority in this case, Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez ruled as follows:

“All powers need some restraint; practical adjustments rather than rigid formula are necessary. Superior strength — the use of force — cannot make wrongs into rights. In this regard, the courts should be vigilant in safeguarding the constitutional rights of the citizens, specially their liberty.

“Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban’s philosophy of liberty is thus most relevant. He said: ‘In cases involving liberty, the scales of justice should weigh heavily against the government and in favor of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the disposed and the weak.’ Laws and actions that restrict fundamental rights come to the courts with a heavy presumption against their constitutional validity.”

[4] The following provisions of the Constitution, among others, mandate the State to promote economic prosperity:

Article II (Declaration of Principles and State Policies)

“Sec. 9. The State shall promote a just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through policies that provide adequate social services, promote full employment, a rising standard of living, and an improved quality of life for all.

“Sec. 17. The State shall give priority to education, science and technology, arts, culture, and sports to foster patriotism and nationalism, accelerate social progress, and promote total human liberation and development.”

Article XII (National Economy and Patrimony))

“Sec.1. The goals of the national economy are a more equitable distribution of opportunities, income, and wealth; a sustained increase in the amount of goods and services produced by the nation for the benefit of the people; and an expanding productivity as the key to raising the quality of life for all, especially the underprivileged.

“The State shall promote industrialization and full employment based on sound agricultural development and agrarian reform, through industries that make full and efficient use of human and natural resources, and which are competitive in both domestic and foreign markets. However, the State shall protect Filipino enterprises against unfair foreign competition and trade practices.

“In the pursuit of these goals, all sectors of the economy and all regions of the country shall be given optimum opportunity to develop. Private enterprises, including corporations, shall be encouraged to broaden the base of their ownership.”

“Sec. 12. The State shall promote the preferential use of Filipino labor, domestic materials and locally produced goods, and adopt measures that help make them competitive.”

“Sec. 13. The State shall pursue a trade policy that serves the general welfare and utilizes all forms and arrangements of exchange on the basis of equality and reciprocity.”

[5] Art. XII, Sec.1.

[6] During his annual message to the US Congress on January 6, 1941, Roosevelt outlined, as his vision for the world, four freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of every person to worship God, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

[7] Art. XIII, Sec. 1.

[8] Art. XIII, Sec. 2

[9] Penguin Press, New York, 2005. See also J. STIGLITZ AND A. CHARLTON, FAIR TRADE FOR ALL, (2005). This book exhorts developed countries to modify World Trade Organization (WTO) rules to enable developing countries to cope with globalization as a means to reduce poverty.

[10] Id. at 1.

[11] Time, December 26, 2005/January 2, 2006, p. 26.

[12] Indeed, at 50, Bill Gates is relinquishing his day-to-day business responsibilities as Microsoft chair as of July 2008, in order “to focus more on philanthropic work.” Time, June 26, 2006, p. 14.

[13] Id.

[14] This sum will be given gradually beginning July this year and continuing every year, for as long as one of the couple — Bill, 50; or Melinda, 42 — is active in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. But each installment must be spent in the year it is given. For 2006, Buffett has donated 602,500 Berkshire B shares valued at about S1.5 billion, which must be spend by the Gates Foundation within the year. Time, July 10, 2006, p. 13.

[15] To celebrate his 80th birthday on August 11, 2006, John Gokongwei donated all his personal holdings (amounting to P10.25 billion) in JG Summit to the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation, which in turn donated P50 million to the University of San Carlos in Cebu City. (Philippine Daily Inquirer, August 13, 2006, p. A1)

[16] LEGAL AND JUDICIAL SECTOR MANUAL (2002), a World Bank publication.

[17] Law and Policy Reform, ADB Report, January 2005, pp. 26-28.

[18] 338 Phil. 546, 604-605, May 2, 1997, per Panganiban, J. (now CJ).

[19] 445 SCRA 1, December 1, 2004, per Panganiban, J. (now CJ).

[20] In the famous 2006 initiative case, Lambino v. Comelec, GR No. 174153, October 25, 2006, I wrote in my Separate Concurring Opinion, thus:

“At bottom, the issue in this case is simply the Rule of Law. Initiative, like referendum and recall, is a treasured feature of the Filipino constitutional system. It was born out of our world-admired and often-imitated People Power, but its misuse and abuse must be resolutely rejected. Democracy must be cherished, but mob rule vanquished.

“The Constitution is a sacred social compact, forged between the government and the people, between each individual and the rest of the citizenry. Through it, the people have solemnly expressed their will that all of them shall be governed by laws, and their rights limited by agreed-upon covenants to promote the common good. It we are to uphold the Rule of Law and reject the rule of the mob, we must faithfully abide by the processes the Constitution has ordained in order to bring about a peaceful, just and human society. Assuming arguendo that six million people allegedly gave their assent to the proposed changes in the Constitution, they are nevertheless still bound by the social covenant — the present Constitution — which was ratified by a far greater majority almost twenty years ago. I do not denigrate the majesty of the sovereign will; rather, I elevate our society to the loftiest perch, because our government must remain as one of laws and not of men.”

[21] The United States , with a per capita income of $41,800, is considered the world’s richest economy. It did not achieve this status overnight, however. The key to its economic success is consistency. Compared with China’s staggering 9.6% growth per year from 1990 to 2003, US growth rates have been relatively modest at 3.3%. But, in a span of two centuries (1820-1998), the US has maintained a steady average growth rate of 1.7% per year of per capita GNP. Its sustained growth is attributed to a stable, transparent and independent government with credible and consistent economic policies. (Figures taken from CIA World Factbook 2005 (visited January 10, 2006); and Recent Economic Perforrmance, WORLD DEVELOPMENT INDICATORS (2005), an annual publication of the World Bank (visited January 31, 2006).

[22] The discussion was summarized by Prof. Alex Magno, in his column in the Philippine Star on January 19, 2006.

[23] The rapid growth of China has been unprecedented. Its average annual growth rate of 9.3% from 1990 to 2003 has been nothing short of phenomenal, and it shows no signs of slowing down in the near future. With a growth rte of 9.5% in 2004 and after the government announced robust economic growth of 9.9% in 2005, China has overtaken France and Britain to become fourth on the list of the world’s biggest economies.

What makes the case of China more inspiring is the fact that in 1981, it was among the poorest countries with more than 60% of the population living on less that $1 a day. This poverty level was cut in half by 1990 and again by 2001. And China was able to achieve all of this under a one-party rule. (Data from Recent Economic Performance, WORLD DEVELOPMENT INDICATORS(2005), id.; Channel News Asia International Business News (visited) January 31, 2006); and CIA World Factbook (2005) (visited January 10, 2006).

[24] Singapore is yet another success story. With average annual growth rates of 6.7% from 1980 to 1990 and 6.3% from 1990 to 2003, it has grown — in a short span of three decades — from being among the world’s poorest countries to one having per-capita income levels that match those of highly industrialized nations. The Singaporean government maintains a significant amount of control over the economy. Even then, Singapore has become a haven for international investors. [Figures culled from Recent Economic Performance, WORLD DEVELOPMENT INDICATORS (2005), an annual publication of the World Bank (visited January 31, 2006); and the CIA WORLD FACTBOOK (2005), (visited January 10, 2006)].

[25] See Panganiban, Leveling the Playing Field (2004) for an extended discussion, particularly pages 19-20, thus:

“During the last few years, the Supreme Court has invoked its expanded certiorari duty to strike down several government contracts and actions that were entered into with grave abuse of discretion by the agencies concerned. Notable among these were the Meralco rate increases authorized by the Energy Regulatory Commission, the reclamation of certain portions of Manila Bay, the construction and operation of Terminal III of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the computerization of the 2004 elections, and the private operation of on-line Internet gambling.

In voiding all these agreements, the Court invoked its duty to uphold the Constitution and the law, pointing out that the rule of law was an essential ingredient of good governance and economic progress. It stressed that public biddings must be transparent and even-handed. In some of these transactions, shades of corruption and wrongdoing were hinted at by the Court. In one case, it even openly criticized the contract for being the “grandmother of all scams.”

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