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Ownership, political will, leadership, and interagency coordination are essential to the success of judicial reforms.

Judicial reforms involve a wide range of institutions and require sustained support and commitment over the medium− to long−term. Justice sector institutions are conservative and resistant to change. Lessons from the Philippines in implementing judicial reforms underscore the importance of ownership, political will, leadership, and interagency coordination in achieving success. It is one of the most complex sectors, making consensus building among different stakeholders—mainly constitutional bodies—unstable and difficult.

Focusing judicial reforms on capacity and institutional development fosters the sustainability of reforms.

The program targets may have been too scattered and should have focused more on capacity and institutional development to promote sustainability, which has become increasingly challenged in recent years. For example, recent events have highlighted continued weakness in the sector over congestion in prisons and a potential rising backlog of cases. Budgetary allocation to the judiciary in the government’s national expenditure plan has also declined to below 1%. On hindsight, a complementary suite of sector investments could have maximized the program benefits, for which reason, a sector development program would have been more apt, rather than a policy-based loan


A 2007 study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) identified the lack of macroeconomic stability, high costs of doing business, inadequate infrastructure, and weak investor confidence as the key binding constraints to sustained growth and poverty reduction in the Philippines. Partly shaped by governance and corruption concerns, these constraints were inextricably linked to the weak performance by the judiciary and justice sector agencies in the executive branch of their critical governance and oversight functions to identify, review, and render justice on public and private sector actions that violate the law.

To help address the situation, ADB approved in December 2008 a $600 million loan for the Governance in Justice Sector Reform Program (GJSRP). The GJSRP comprised of 2 equally financed subprograms that involved a series of policy reforms and capacity-building activities to improve justice sector’s performance in meeting institutional mandates. Subprogram 1 focused on increasing resources and supporting the efficient delivery of services, and subprogram 2 on institutional capacity building to deliver services to communities and implement measures to address sector priorities. Subprogram 1 financing was divided in 2 equal tranches, while that of subprogram 2 came in a single tranche. Tranche releases were contingent on the accomplishment of policy conditions.

The GJSR’s anticipated impact was greater public trust and confidence in the justice system. Its intended outcome was a more efficient justice sector. Its planned outputs were: (i) strengthened judicial fiscal autonomy and improved justice sector accountability and access to resources, (ii) enhanced justice sector integrity, (iii) improved sector efficiency, (iv) improved access to justice by the poor and vulnerable, and (v) expanded delivery of justice through alternative dispute resolution.

Subprogram 1 accomplishments were significant and fully complied with 8 policy conditions. All 16 policy actions under subprogram 2, including 8 additional ones, were also implemented. Increases in sector agencies’ resources were accompanied by improved performance in the policy reform areas, and greater resources strengthened the demand for increased accountability in expenditure management. ADB’s involvement facilitated regular and more open dialogue between the judiciary and the executive branch, without undermining each other’s autonomy. The budget increases were notable as they occurred amid fiscal consolidation.

Successful implementation of the policy conditions enabled the program to achieve its outcome, in some cases, exceeding targets. For example: (i) court case clearance rate, targeted to increase from 27.3% in 2006 to 34.0% by 2010, actually reached 37.8% in 2010; (ii) the number of clients served by the Public Attorney’s Office increased by 10% in 2010 from 4.382 million in 2007; and (iii) court-annexed mediation increased by 118% in 2010, from 21,211 in 2006 while the number of cases referred to judicial dispute resolution increased by 250% in 2010, from 1,437 in 2006.

ADB’s Southeast Asia Department rated the project successful. The Supreme Court and the Department of Finance were the executing agencies. Key implementing agencies were the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice, the Department of Interior and Local Government, the Department of Budget and Management, and the Office of the Solicitor General.

Project Information
Project Name: 
PHILIPPINES: Governance in Justice Sector Reform Program
Report Date: 
June, 2017
Project Number: 
Sub Sector: 
Loan Number: 
2489, 2840
Report Rating: 

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