The main news this week involved Eduardo Palacios Villar, a provisional judge at the Peruvian Supreme Court. Palacios Villar was filmed when accepting money from an ex policeman who bribed the judge to obtain his restitution. The scandal originated responses from everywhere: The Judicial Power (Poder Judicial) declared itself in reorganisation, the Executive denounced the systematic corruption within the judicial branch and the Congress also intervened. On the other hand, Prime Minister Jorge del Castillo presented the budget for next year.
The Judicial Power and its corruption
The strong reactions following the discovery of Palacios Villar can only be explained by the widespread perception of generalised corruption within the justice system. Otherwise, the scandal involving Palacios Villar would have been seen as an isolated circumstance. According to analyst Mirko Lauer, its not about a fly in the soup, but rather about a soup of flies (source: La República).
Thanks to this corruption scandal everybody is now talking about the importance of reforming the judicial system. On September 6, Walter Vásquez Vejarano, the president of the Judicial Power, met president Alan García along with the other supreme judges. They agreed to declare the Judicial Power in “complete reorganisation”.
Special attention needs to be drawn towards the recommendations issued by the Comisión Especial para la Reforma Integral de la Administración de Justicia (CERIAJUS). The CERIAJUS was created in October 2003 under participation of the judicial brach, the Congress and civil society. Unfortunately, most of the reccomendations presented by the CERIAJUS in 2004 were never passed by Congress (click here to access the webpage of the CERIAJUS).
Congress members have now appeared in public with a series of proposals, some of them rather demagogic like Mauricio Mulder’s (Partido Aprista Peruano) demand for lifelong prison for corrupt judges, other’s being much more reasonable. Mercedes Cabanillas (PAP), President of Congress, promised to prioritise bills relative to the judicial reform, especially those concerned with the judge’s carrier. The basic idea is to value merits higher than the time in office.
According to Constitution, the Judicial Power is autonomous. For that same reason, Congress’ and Executive’s capacity to intervene is limited. On this matter, lawyer Raúl Ferrero declared:
The Executive may colaborate on administrative issues, granting a bigger budget and executing a series of important tasks, but it cannot interfere with the Judicial Power (source: Perú21).
Thus, the changes will need to come from the Judicial Power itself. As a matter of fact and according to Constitution, the Supreme Court has the faculty of presenting legal iniciatives to Congress. But, to begin with, the enormous burden of legal actions which the Supreme Court has to resolve needs to be reduced. It will otherwise be quite difficult for the Supreme Court to assume a more directive role.
Presenting next year’s budget
The public budget for 2007 amounts to 62 billion soles (about 20 billions dollars). In comparison, this year’s budget amounted to 51 billion soles (about 16 billion dollars).
During his presentation at Congress, Prime Minister Jorge del Castillo pointed out that the new budget includes more social investments and less regular payments. By saying this, del Castillo tried to elude the criticisms faced by the Toledo administration. According to these criticisms, most of the budget was spent in paying debts, public-sector jobs, pensions and other administrative expenses, therefore leaving little for investments in the country’s infrastructure. But, then again, the changes announced by del Castillo are not that spectacular: In 2006, 13 % of the total budget was spent for investments. Next year it will be 16 %.
Furthemore, del Castillo announced more resources for the provinces. But assemblyman Félix Jiménez (Unión por el Perú) criticised that the increase of the budget for provinces is below the total increase:
The budget of the regional governments incresed by 12 % and the general budget by 14,3 %. Obviously, we cannot say that there is a policy of financial descentralisation when the budget of the regional governments increases at a smaller rate than the total increase (source: La República).
On the other hand, Congress approved a supplemental credit for this year amounting to almost 2 billion soles (about 600 millions dollars) designated for social proyects. This expansion of the current budgent was approved with 94 to zero and two abstentions (source: La República).