MANILA – Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said on Wednesday that upholding judicial independence and the rule of law is crucial to restoring investor confidence and achieving economic prosperity.
“To support the judiciary’s call for the Rule of Law is to support not only our democracy, but also to engender an environment conducive to economic growth,” Sereno said in her keynote address during the 55th Philippine Economic Society Annual Meeting and Conference held at Novotel Hotel in Quezon City.
“We can only ensure protection of the rights of every citizen including those in the business community if we have a judiciary that is truly independent and strong,” she added.
According to Sereno, it is in ensuring transparency and accountability that the rule of law provides businesses the level playing field necessary to encourage investors, as well help in their strategic business planning.
To restore investor confidence, she stressed, government institutions must work together.
“When it comes to building institutions, all government leaders must ensure that they support, not weaken institutions. Institutions build a nation, strong institutions enable nations to prosper,” the Chief Justice explained.
After all, she added, all investors who intend to invest for the long term look for stable rule of law institutions—independent, non-politicized and professional judiciary, prosecutors, investigators, law enforcement and anti-corruption officials.
Sereno emphasized the importance of what she called “economy of good words” or “words that build up, rather than tear down.”
“Words that elevate the level of discourse in a nation, words that allow people to hope, to look forward to a country that they can be proud of — a country where truth, justice, fairness and righteousness abound,” she said.
“A country where one can hear words of kindness, compassion, empathy for those who have little, but a country also made strong and firm by honesty and integrity.”
Sereno also outlined to economists and business leaders various judicial reform initiatives undertaken by the Supreme Court in order remove the notion that the courts hamper economic progress.
“The view that courts hinder progress is something we are determined to replace with a view that courts, rather, are the refuge for the wronged, or at the very least, the honest arbiter of competing claims, views and interests,” she said.
With her at the helm, Sereno said the judiciary would continue to work hard to ensure that confidence in the justice system will be built up. “We have worked hard from day one to restore this confidence, and we are relentlessly working on it.”
In an era of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” Sereno said there was a need to make people believe again in public institutions that the judicial reform programs were rooted.
“The Rule of Law carried out by strong justice institutions undergirds economic development. The Rule of Law is not only essential for defending basic political and human rights, but is also essential to achieve fair and broad-based economic prosperity,” Sereno stressed.
“I have constantly assured economic and business leaders that the judiciary is well aware of their desire that the judiciary ensure stability of judicial actions; improve the speed and quality of adjudication; and lower litigation costs. Undoubtedly, the judiciary’s performance – how we function as the vanguards of rule of law – directly contributes to a stable and efficient business environment in the Philippines,” she added.