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Philippine leader: Supreme Court meddling too much

August 28, 2014

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said Thursday that the Supreme Court meddles too much in political issues, reiterating he was open to amend the constitution to clip the judiciary’s power.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, an appointee of Aquino, said she had enormous respect for him and the court would only respond to political and constitutional questions through its rulings. The president previously criticized the court’s June 30 ruling declaring his government’s enforcement of a major economic stimulus program partly unconstitutional.

In an interview with Manila’s Bombo Radyo, Aquino complained that the Supreme Court “is meddling in everything and their meddling is making it more difficult to run the government.”

“Perhaps judicial reach needs to be reviewed and limited,” he added.

The 1987 constitution — drafted while Aquino’s mother, the late democracy icon Corazon Aquino, was president after the country emerged from dictatorship — says judicial power includes the duty “to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.”

Aquino said such judicial review power should be used sparingly and with restraint “but what seems to be is happening now is it is used often.”

In an annual forum with journalists, Sereno said the pressure on her office is enormous on a daily basis.

“That’s why it is important for me to uphold the independence of my office on a daily basis,” she said. “It is important that the people see the chief justice has the constitution first and foremost on her mind.”

She also expressed hopes that the people will see that “it is in their interest to promote a strong and independent judiciary” and that the citizens will have no redress if the judiciary is weak.

Sereno also appealed for more funding for judicial reforms, complaining that the court receives a meager budget.

The Supreme Court is trying to speed up the disposition of cases in the country, which has a history of long litigation. Sereno said electronic filing of cases, creation of courts that do continuous trials and finishing quickly small claims cases through specialized courts are among the reforms being made.

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