Integrity and the whistleblowing rule

Published October 18, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Justice Art D. Brion (ret.)


J. Art D. Brion (Ret.)
Justice Arturo D. Brion

Under A.M. No. 18-01-05-SC, the Supreme Court recently established the Judicial Integrity Board and the Corruption Prevention and Investigation Office “to promote integrity and curb corruption” within the judiciary. These are brand new high-level offices that will now absorb the anti-corruption functions and the handling of ethics cases previously handled by the Office of the Court Administrator and by the court itself.

On October 13, 2021, the JIB – with the support of Philja – embarked on the first of a series of seminars to fully explain its mission, functions and mode of operations to the members of the judiciary. I was invited to deliver the closing remarks where I in part said: 

“A third reason involves the title of your office – Judicial Integrity Board.  Integrity is a word that, to me, is replete with meaning.  It has a special meaning to which I am personally attached in our masonic fraternity. More importantly, it is a constitutional requirement to be a Justice of the Court and I served in this role for a good number of years.”  

“As a Justice, a question I have always asked myself about integrity (and I pose the same question to all of you today as we close these proceedings) is – how serious are you in being true to the “integrity” that your title “Judicial Integrity Board” carries?  Only you can answer this question and I will not ask any one for a categorical answer.”

“In my own view, ‘integrity’ as a desired judicial trait has not really been seriously used in the judiciary and its earnest application is long overdue. Despite its status as a constitutional requirement, integrity has not been distinctly identified with our branch of government. For this reason, I was very happy when then Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta established the JIB to be the focal point within the judiciary in the use, application and enforcement of the trait of “integrity.”You and your Board now embody the hope of elevating this constitutionally required trait to its full dignity in our judiciary.”

“I warn you though that you cannot use, apply and enforce integrity by simply knowing the law and its internal rules – the objective of the exercise we undertook today.  Integrity is more than the recital of what the law and rules are.  Ethics and values have to be everywhere, as I have encouraged Philja to practice and to perpetuate through its seminars.”

“Integrity only truly comes alive when people see role models leading lives and rendering public service with integrity.  You, at the JIB, can be among the best role models by living and serving according to the standards that the term “integrity” fully requires.”

“You can demonstrate ‘integrity’ through the proper handling of your mandate as an Integrity Board, to convey to everyone that you mean business; by deciding ethical issues while showing that you yourselves always act ethically; by interacting fairly and in good faith with others; and by breathing integrity into the leadership that has been given to you by law and by the Court.”

“In sum, you can lead with integrity by being there upfront as you charge into the ethical minefields that have always surrounded our judiciary. Through your example, you thereby induce and even compel people to follow you in living and working ethically.”

“Beyond the element of inducement and compulsion, you can also invite people to join you so that you can have them by your side when you begin living and breathing the “integrity” that your Board’s title carries.”

“You can ask people, not only within the judiciary but also from outside, to join you by sponsoring and asking the Court to approve a whistleblower’s rule for the judiciary, with no one exempted – not the justices, nor the judges, nor the officials, not even yourselves.”

“People should be able to write, call, text, or otherwise communicate with your Board, with the Court itself or its chosen representative, under terms the Court shall define, to relay information on corrupt, illegal or unethical practices happening within our midst, not only in administrative tasks but even in the performance of judicial duties.”

“When people can do this without substantial risks to themselves, their jobs and their means of livelihood (and specifically, without fear of retaliatory action) for the wrong doings they report, then they will come and be one with you. Nobody likes to live in a dirty house and they will gladly join in the house cleaning that is your Board’s mandate to undertake.”

“This is not a new rule; many leading private companies in the Philippines and the U.S. have already adopted this rule and can provide the models to follow. In fact, the ABA ROLI (or the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative), if asked, may even help and guide you launch and carry out this initiative. They had done this in the past for us although this first attempt did not prosper.”

“Unfortunately, I will not be around to join you when and if you launch your whistleblower initiative, but I shall watch from the sides and write and tell the outside world of what you are doing.  This is my promise to you in these Closing Remarks.  Give me the positive signals and I shall deliver.  Maraming salamat po.”