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'Trial by jury' in PH campaign marks 5th anniversary

LONDON - Philippine Jury Campaign International (PJCI) celebrated its 5th year of lobbying for trial-by-jury in the Philippines with a dinner dance presentation in West London. Held at Baden Powell House in Kensington, the event was attended by hundreds of PJCI members and supporters, including guest speakers 'Among Ed' Panlilio, 26th Governor of Pampanga, and Reynaldo Catapang, Charges d’Affaires of the Philippine embassy in London. The anniversary celebrations featured a buffet dinner of traditional Filipino dishes, as well as performances from British Filipino artists, from solo vocalists (May Fuentes, Joy Cantapay, Shania Ocampo) to female vocal groups (Elements, Simplicity, Necessities). The entertainment also included the Oval Group, who delivered a medley of traditional Filipino folk dances, and an endearing mother-and-son

performance from pianist Donna de Ocampo with her son Elijah on the violin. Most importantly, the event highlighted the work of PJCI in a series of presentations from its leaders: a progress report from executive director Amy Balliao, and a keynote address from founder and chairman Timoteo Sapurco Jr.
“We see that our judiciary system is very weak, and it’s sometimes tarnished with corruption. There are 700,000 cases in the Philippines right now, and we don’t know when these will be solved. Putting trial-by-jury in our judiciary system will make a difference and will improve the system,” explained Balliao, speaking to The Filipino Channel. She added: “I’m not saying that the jury system is the solution to all the problems and the corruption, but it’s a step to having a better, independent, transparent judiciary system.” The Philippines currently uses a one-man-judge system for all cases taken to trial. PJCI is campaigning to replace this with a trial-by-jury system, in which members of the public help decide the outcome of cases in court. Different forms of jury trials are currently in practice in several countries including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Russia, and the United States. “Our judiciary system will become independent and transparent, and will have the participation of the common people. With that, we will have political maturity, consciousness, and a better Philippines,” enthused Balliao. She continued: “There is a bit of hesitance because they don’t understand it. This is a new concept for Filipinos. But once you explain it to them, they listen. The good thing about our fellow countrymen is that they listen, they won’t just dismiss it. They also want change, and they want to see a better Philippines.” She admitted that implementing major changes will be “difficult,” and that the last five years of their campaign have already proved challenging at times. “This is not for us, but for the future,” she concluded. “Establishing it and educating the people will take time, but we are resolute to campaign until trial-by-jury is in place in our judiciary system.” In 2011, PJCI will embark on a tour of several universities and communities in the Philippines to share their knowledge on the benefits of a trial-by-jury system. They also plan to expand their activities by opening a ‘Barangay Center and Cooperative’ in England, a not-for-profit service for all Filipinos who require assistance in different areas including education, housing and employment.
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