Juryless in Philippines

The juryless court system is creating a judicial disaster for everyone because people don’t want to use it. And couldn’t, even if they wanted to.

WHY doesn’t the Philippines have jury trials?

Philippine readers may become upset with this, but they’ll probably realise I’m on their side too once they read on.

I’m (was) an English lawyer — but don’t let that crimp my style in remarking about the legal systems of other countries. Fresh eyes make for fresh perspective, no?

Why wonder?

We all have to operate on some realistic level, as Richard Burton’s character nicely puts it in the movie The Night of the Iguana (1964).

Foreigners who have lived in the Philippines for a few years sometimes start to think they know more than the locals do about solving that nation’s problems. It’s a very natural phenomenon worldwide.

It’s a no-brainer. Common sense tells us the whole absence of jury trials boils down to four realities in the Philippines:—

  • Constraints in financing, administrative logistics and education
  • Corruption, money, power, and social status
  • Emotional capacity, personal biases, and social prejudices
  • Philippine ‘culture’

Philippine people make no bones about it:— They ARE critical of the people running their country. The powers-that-be are generally seen as corrupt or uncaring, or just plain incompetent. But they also see some activist groups overdo their ‘opposition’ to the authorities.

Primary constraints: financing, logistics, etc

Right now, the Philippine court system is this:—

  • Supreme Court
  • Court of Appeals
  • Regional Trial Courts
  • Municipal or Metropolitan Trial Courts

The Philippines is a Civil Code jurisdiction, yet operates with caselaw (obviously to a lesser degree than a Common Law jurisdiction).

The judge is normally the one who renders the verdict (there being no jury) after hearing testimonies from witnesses as cross-examined by the prosecution and the defence.

Where’s it going to get the money from?

To administer (and administrate) a jury system, it needs a rather highly coordinated and well-financed framework to select and operate the jurors to serve.

The Philippine court system isn’t a well-paid system even for its judges and legal personnel. As judges go worldwide, Philippine judges are paid shit.

At the lower court levels, they just need corruption just for living expenses.

This isn’t how to treat judges.

So when there is a case that requires 10 or 12 jurors, a jury system has to provide room and board (and possibly allowances) for those jurors.

That’s great on a theoretical level. But when you have 1,000 cases requiring the same, the theory completely crumbles to pieces — given the realistic financial state of the Philippines as a whole and of its court system in particular.

No court case in the world has a definite ‘ending’ date. To even suggest there might be a common pattern is to show amateurishness and ignorance. The case ends when it ends. So the budget to maintain (and compensate ) jurors on ongoing cases just keeps snowballing along.

The operative word is ‘budget.’

How is the Philippines going to budget for that? I’ve heard a lot of Filipinos tell me they’d rather have the money spent on something else more important or relevant to the common people.

Select what from where?

Never mind the money factor.

How is it going to physically carry out the logistics of operating a jury system, given the realities of the Philippines?

The commonest claim is unarguably true:—

The court just cannot pick 10 or 12 people and then proceed with legal battles. Filipinos should be educated about the legal process — how it’s carried out, the roles and expectations of the whole idea of ‘justice,’ and what the juror is expected to do.

Trouble is, no one in authority right now in the Philippines is even explaining the existing system to the people — never mind something brand new like a jury system. It’s like saying, “I’m not educating you because you’re uneducated.” WTF.

On a more operational level though, the disposition of cases will be even more delayed by the jury selection process — initial selection from the voter rolls, pre-qualifying eligible candidates (citizenship, language, disabilities, etc), summonses to the qualified for jury duty, voir dire by the lawyers on the case, backup jurors, you name it.

The voir dire part alone would wipe out the first round of jurors selected, so a second round is called for. More eligible jurors needed.

But never mind even that. I wonder how they will do it.

Ask your average Filipino anything about ‘jury,’ and the most usual response is a blank stare — “Err, what?”

Will eligible jurors be randomly picked? Or from some kind of population database? Voter registration lists? Based on what — education, income, social status, ‘maturity’?

Then we have the nonsense claim about time:—

“Will Filipinos be morally willing to leave their loved ones and be secluded for a long time while the trial that requires an educated understanding is going on? Will they be able to keep everything in secrecy? Can they afford to leave their jobs for jury duty?”

(from my notes)

How about not using emotionally charged language like morally, leave, secluded, educated understanding, secrecy and afford to leave?

If we express it that way, even a British or American judge wouldn’t want to get involved.

What about time? The Filipino is perfectly willing to serve jury duty. Give him or her all that are properly due to any juror worldwide. It’s literally that simple.

The real problem isn’t with the ‘juror.’ It’s with the structural aspects of the ‘system.’

Depends on which side of the money, isn’t it, Ms Rand?

Corruption, money, power, social status

I ask for forgiveness. Philippine readers may be displeased about this part.

Every self-respecting Filipino knows what the hell is happening under the table, in the toilets, behind closed doors, etc, in The Establishment. No need to explain.

The Philippines isn’t a corrupt country or culture.

But let’s not bullshit either — many parts of the government and justice system leave much to be desired — because of the (shall we say) “money focus.” Money talks, money wins.

People in power there have social status. Social status means money. Money means influence and corruption. Corruption warps power and social status. And the cycle repeats.

That’s the standard operating procedure of The Establishment in the eyes of the average Filipino — and that’s hard to contradict.

Emotional capacity, biases, culture, etc

This is going to upset Philippine readers even more, so please be lenient.

I’ve heard educated Philippine people saying the below about Filipinos:—

  • Most of the time, Filipinos are rather emotional people and can easily be upset and persuaded on just the emotional factor.
  • The quintessential juror has to be ‘reasonable’ — meaning impartial, not apt to give way to emotions, and all that jazz.
  • So are they ready to hear testimonies of horrific murder, abuse, rape, robbery, torture of the most heinous kind, etc, in highly graphic detail in highly charged language used by aggressive lawyers gunning to win for Country, Justice and The Philippine Way by the Grace of God Almighty, Amen? How well do even Filipinos themselves think they can stop being ‘hyper’ in that situation?

I hate to agree with that — but it’s hard to disagree in reality — right now.

But here’s my muttonchop opinion worth twopence:—

A lot of Filipinos I know personally say they just cannot see how Filipinos can stand that kind of pressure — pressure from the case’s horrifics and pressure from the trained legal mind. They also mention the usual sensational Philippine cases like the Hultman-Chapman murder case (1995), the Vizconde massacre (1995–2010), and the Subic rape case (2005) and how they would play out with jurors.


Nobody is in any position to say anything because of one reality.


No one will ever know how the Filipino juror will do — because the Philippines doesn’t have a jury system! So everyone is literally talking out of thin air — even if they happen to ‘know’ the Filipino ‘character.’

I’m making a wild-ass guess here:—

I don’t think the typical Filipino is incapable of making a sensible verdict even under intense legal ‘atmospherics.’ It will be a rocky ride in the early stages. But if we never give him the opportunity, the answer will always be “he’ll never make it” as a juror.

If I never give you breakfast, I’ll never how you’ll behave at the breakfast table.

I do happen to think the average Filipino does have the capacity and intelligence to handle verdicts like life imprisonment and death penalty.

Cynically, I don’t think the court personnel right now are giving enough full play to their capacities because of the extralegal functions and the claimed emotional yoyo quality of the Philippine character, geddit?

Proof of concept:—

Filipinos overseas like in the UK, USA, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc, have no problem whatsoever understanding those legal systems and serving as jurors there. So what makes people so goddamned sure the Filipinos can’t do the same in their own country, honey?

Never mind the claims about need to be educated.

Filipinos just need to be shown the general operations of the judicial system on an everyday level first. That’s near-total absent right now. And afterwards be educated about the jury system.

Problem is, the Philippine justice system on an everyday level operates like a mess, so I don’t know how anyone could educate the masses about that.

My professional attitudinal insights

Yet the crap I hear from the legally trained isn’t exactly inspiring either — grand jury for this, that or the other level of grand trials, supreme court cases, you name it.

How about a more realistic, doable suggestion?

How about introducing a jury at HIGHEST level first — Supreme Court or Court of Appeals?

At that high level, I’m pretty sure the excuse for having educated jurors would be workable — and acceptable and well-received by the masses. After all, it’s at high level.

Let that work for a few years or decades, and then let that system filter down to the lower levels in the fullness of time.

Evolution isn’t just about biology, you know.

Indeed, if you ask me as a lawyer, when the hell is the country going to introduce something more regular like a magistrates’ court and a high court (as court of first instance) divided into civil and criminal divisions?

Then again, what the hell do I know about the Philippine judiciary as an English lawyer, right?

Maybe I just don’t understand the “money focus” of the Philippine Establishment in judicial matters, right?

Ain’t ready yet, mate

Okay, I can accept that the Philippines isn’t ready yet for a jury system — on the reasons about budgeting and logistics.

I can probably accept the reason of education, if the authorities make sincere efforts to remedy the situation even on an abject level.

I know that jurors need to absorb all the facts and legal atmospherics, deal with the flippin’ heartache and pain at the sight of the devastated families of the victims, and the interminable grind of the proceedings day in, day out.

And it will be too much. It’s always too damned much — anywhere in the world.

But they’re ready.

If those heinous crimes can happen in that country, be sure the people can take it, and be sure jurors could take it too.

The decision to introduce a jury system of course rides a lot on the budget and logistics. It’s reality for the Philippines to mull over.

The ‘emotional’ aspect of the future jurors is of course a big factor that plays into the decision.

Latin Americans are a pretty emotional lot too, in my experience, but that didn’t stop those countries from having juries. Something to think about, eh?

Not ‘wholesale,’ thankyouverymuch

Personally, I’m not terribly fond of the attitudes of quite a lot of the highflying Philippine lawyers. Theirs is an attitude of—

“… our judicial system isn’t perfect, and to the American/British/whatever fellow insisting that we adopt the jury system, he better do his homework before engaging Filipinos in debate about what’s best for us.”

(via my notes)

To those particular lawyers insisting a jury system is no good for the Philippines, they better do THEIR homework about what they’re NOT doing in the PRESENT existing system to make it practicably useful and usable by PRESENT existing Filipinos on an everyday level before engaging even outsiders in debate about what’s NOT best for themselves.


No judicial system is ever perfect — so don’t mention “our judicial system isn’t perfect.” That’s an amateur’s way of defensiveness. And it’s REALLY offensive.

Wise up to the discussion. It’s not a debate.

Don’t confuse the issue. It’s not about WHOLESALE introduction of a jury system throughout the Philippine judiciary. Nobody cares about grand stuff like ‘reform’ of the judiciary. People (like me) aren’t even talking about ‘improvements.’ It’s just merely about making things practicably workable for the common masses to use.

It’s all about introduction of a jury system.

To any sane person (which almost literally excludes all lawyers of the world!), that should mean introducing the wretched thing at some restricted level.

So those lawyers need to stop lashing out. They’re latching on to the notion of “adopting a system clearly unsuited to our own” (whatever the hell that means) — plus fearmongering about “may yield bigger disasters than what it seeks to solve.”

Not to put too fine a point on things, the present system of measures clearly isn’t suited to its own right now. The government (and the lawyers) already has a judicial disaster on its hands because the people are not getting to use it, and don’t want to use it.

Final word

To what extent can the Philippine establishment can still morally defend the unwarranted, unprincipled practice of leaving their countrymen in a state of artificial seclusion and ignorance for an undue length of time from gaining an informed practical understanding of a proper system of even restoring justice for the aggrieved individual without fear or favour?

Will those in authority by the mandate of the people and the grace of God still be able to keep everything that is today in unnecessary secrecy? Can they still afford to foist their longstanding excuses for still exercising authority and influence in the current manner at the expense of the literal needs and yearned-for wants of the population as currently manifest?

We draw our own most lenient conclusions.


Originally written on 29 Aug 2016.


I have occasion to hear (and read) remarks from my friends and followers on this and various other topics.

One correspondent (who I’m giving the pseudonym “QLR” for convenience) remarked on the above:—

“Your analysis of the economic issues is brilliant and in my experience accurate.

“Your suggestion for a way to start by using juries at the level of the Supreme Court makes huge sense. The plan to use 13 jurors breaks down bribery efforts. Brilliant, simply elegant solution.

“My argument has always been that juries inject common sense justice into the system. That argument still carries, IMHO. Thank you for bringing a mechanism (top down) for implementing this.

“The obvious problem is that SC judges will hate you for suggesting a dilution of their power.”

— “QLR,” Ph.D., American, living in the Philippines for years

I’m flattered by the praise.

Dare I say, suggesting something so ‘rad’ as injecting juries at the highest level of court, whose remit is more on points of law rather than the facts of the case, will make me hated and detested for exactly the reason state. But we expected this anyway. Brilliant comment, by the way.


Hultman-Chapman murder case:— People of the Philippines vs. Claudio Teehankee, Jr (1995) GR Nos. 111206-08.

Vizconde murders:— People of the Philippines vs. Hubert Webb et al. (1995–2010) G.R. No. 176864 (1995–2010).

Subic rape case:— People of the Philippines vs. Chad Carpentier, Dominic Duplantis, Keith Silkwood, and Daniel Smith (2005) CA GR CR HC No. 02587.

© Lipsync Lawyer, 22 Dec 2016. (B16324)
Featured image courtesy of the Twenty Sixteen theme.

How to cite this article

Lipsync Lawyer. (2016 Dec 22). Juryless in Philippines. Blog post ID B16324. http://wp.me/p8dCZK-4.

Author: thenakedlistener

Printbroker, financial printer & editor. Previously in London, Rome, Tokyo & Beirut. Motorbiker & non-practising lawyer. Wears cowboy boots & a ponytail. Fabulous.