Twelve (12) months ago, during an assembly like this, I was privileged to speak before you. At that time, I hardly knew most of you. But as the days passed, I observed how many men and women of this court worked with a quiet passion to ensure that the court's administrative machinery was efficiently run and that justice was effectively done. I then told myself that I am fortunate to be in the company of these silent patriots.
Today, I take this occasion to appeal to that same patriotic spirit that has defined your character as public servants. Together, let us renew our unqualified commitment to our constitutional duty, "to be accountable to the people at all times, to serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives." Let us remember that among all public servants, we who work here are held up to a higher standard of accountability, because we are the nation's anti-graft court.
Indeed, this duty has become imperative for us now more than ever. For our citizens have become more vigilant, more empowered, and more outspoken. They demand more transparency and accountability from their public servants. We are not insensitive to their clamor for a more responsive government; we are not callous to their desire for a better, more vibrant judiciary.
Our mandate is crystal clear – to rule solely on the basis of the law and the evidence without regard to the personalities involved. We cannot be blamed for rendering just and proper judgments no matter how unpopular they may be. But we can never be forgiven for failing to act. At a time when delays or perceived delays in judicial action are viewed with suspicion, the worst thing we can do is to respond with apathy. Indeed, our best response to a vigilant public is an even more vigilant Sandiganbayan; one that is always just, brave, impartial and independent. We owe our people no less.
But we cannot succeed unless every one of us takes full ownership of our role in dispensing justice to the nation. We are a house of justice. Unless we care for it the way an owner would his own house, we lend it vulnerable to unseen forces that seek to be its master. Complacency, indifference and a lack of urgency are but the least of these evils, for they breed a host of far greater evils that we should be eternally vigilant against. Thus, the time has come for each of us to ask ourselves how we can better care like an owner of this house, so that all who enter may leave it with the justice that they seek.
With your kind indulgence, allow me to share some thoughts on how this court can better assert such ownership. Please consider it as my "wish list" for our court:
1. For our court to stand united as a stronghold against graft and corruption. We are all unique in temperament and disposition, and we may differ with one another from time to time. But let us not allow our personal and official differences to tear us away from the tie that binds us all: our accountability to the public whom we are sworn to serve. Let the patriotism that resides in each of us raise us above our personal passions, so that we may continue to dispense justice speedily, completely and justly.
2. For our court to exercise, enforce and execute its powers more actively and purposefully. We cannot afford to be perceived as passive or timid. We need not wait to be prodded to act when the rules and circumstances make it clear that we should already act. This duty of swift justice carries the same compelling force whether it involves convicting the guilty, or freeing the innocent, or recovering public assets conclusively proven to be ill-gotten. Let speedy and substantial justice be our touchstone – one that vigorously "follows through" to as complete a conclusion as possible, so that no judicial triumph shall ever be empty or in vain.
3. For all of us to cooperate in instituting a time-sensitive process to speed up the resolution of cases pending before the court.
4. For us to instill a sense of pride in every public servant who works for this court. No role is "too small to be important." The administrative staff, the stenographer, the process server, the records custodian, the security personnel, and the janitorial staff – must all realize their crucial role in "keeping the whole administrative house in order, for such is vital to the court's ultimate role of dispensing justice to the nation."
5. Is really a prayer: that our court may be blessed with that constant power of discernment in all the cases laid before us, avoid delaying justice yet avoid rushing to judgment, and extend judicial protection to those who truly deserve protection, in order to deliver true justice for all.
I ask you then to extend your whole-hearted cooperation in making this vision come to pass for our country and our people. Let us work with renewed vigor, mindful of our court's oath to serve the people with katapatan, kapanagutan, and karangalan. To paraphrase the American patriot Patrick Henry, the war against graft and corruption is ours to win, but only if we stand steadfast and remain counted among "the vigilant, the active, [and] the brave."
Before I end, allow me to personally thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your support and prayers. God bless you and your families.
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