PH, Australia forge judicial alliance

Local News Official
Local News OfficialSunStar File Photo

MORE than 400 judges from the Philippines and abroad, convened to witness a historic moment on Wednesday, May 8, 2024, in Cebu City for the signing of the first-ever memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the judicial branches of the Philippines and Australia.

This happened during the joint gathering of the Philippine Women Judges Association (PWJA) for their 29th Annual Convention Seminar and the 2024 Asia-Pacific Regional Conference of the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ).

Among the guests are Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo of the Philippines' Supreme Court and Chief Justice William Alstergren of Australia's Federal Circuit and Family Court, who participated virtually, signed the MOU, marking a milestone in judicial cooperation between the two countries.

According to Supreme Court spokesperson Lawyer Camille Sue Mae Ting, the MOU signifies a commitment to judicial cooperation between the country's High Court and the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

Valid for five years with the possibility of renewal, she said that the MOU outlines various programs aimed at enhancing judicial cooperation, with specific focus areas identified for the initial two-year period.

These include improving access to Family Courts, particularly for vulnerable groups like women and children, and bolstering leadership opportunities for judges within these courts.

Additionally, the MOU aims to enhance judges' capacity in handling cases related to human trafficking, online sexual abuse, and the exploitation of children. This collaboration will involve activities such as meetings, study visits, training sessions, and sharing of expertise.

“The forms of judicial cooperation would be through holding meetings, study visits, training, and expertise sharing,” Ting said.

The joint gathering saw the participation of 427 judges from various regions of the Philippines, along with 39 international judges and 16 representatives from Asia-Pacific countries.

In his speech, Gesmundo commended the growing presence of women judges in the judiciary, emphasizing their unique perspective and invaluable contributions to the legal system.

Gesmundo emphasized that women judges possess a unique ability to perceive things that he or any male judges could not.

“How you have fought discrimination, inequality, misogyny, violence, and abuse through generations has molded you in a different cast, with an entirely independent and distinctive outlook and introspection that draws from a well of life-altering experiences. This is the extraordinary power that women judges bring the bench,” the judge said.

Associate Justice Maria Filomena Singh, also serving as Executive Vice-President of PWJA and Regional Director of IAWJ Asia-Pacific, stressed the importance of ensuring gender sensitivity and fairness within the courts to uphold the rule of law effectively.

“If we fail to account for the economic, structural, and cultural barriers caused by gender discrimination, the rule of law becomes unreliable, out-of-touch, and unresponsive,” said Singh.

The event, themed "Women Lead: Transforming Asia-Pacific and Changing the World," featured plenary discussions covering topics such as initiatives towards gender parity in the judiciary, the impact of climate change on women and children, and gender inclusivity and empowerment.

Reflecting on the representation of women in the judiciary, Associate Justice Jhosep Lopez highlighted that 55 percent of judges in the country are women during the International Women's Month celebration in March, adding that this statistic underscores the progress towards gender equality within the legal profession. (KJF)

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