Friday, February 1, 2013

Book Review: What is the Philippine equivalent of Brown v. Board? (Philippines)

Marites Vitug is one of the more prominent critics of corruption and nepotism in the Philippine Supreme Court. However, in this book, she focuses on landmark rights cases from the Supreme Court. These are essentially the Philippine equivalents of Brown v. Board, Roe v. Wade, etc. Admittedly, not all of these cases result in victories for rights activists, but they are crucial to understanding Philippine jurisprudence. Vitug and Yabes provide a short overview of the case, but they really focus on the individuals and personalities involved. This is great for foreigners who can access the official judicial opinions easily enough on the Supreme Court's website but might not appreciate the context surrounding the case. It's particularly revealing to see some of the behind-the-scenes influence in some cases - the sort of personal touches that never make it into the written opinion. For example, in one of the mining cases, a former Supreme Court justice was a lawyer for one of the parties! In another case, Vitug and Yabes recount the scathing skepticism of the justices during oral argument. As with Vitug's Shadow of Doubt, this book is essentially reading for anybody interested in the modern Philippine judicial system.

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