Navigating Law, Politics and Informality: A Study of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, 1986-2015

Our talk is structured into two parts: First, drawing on insights from ongoing research of ours on judicial politics in Southeast Asia, we propose a relational approach to studying judicial politics in non-Western societies - a framework for the systematic analysis of informal relations between judges and other actors, within and outside the judiciary, based on common political interests, ideas, social identity, and even clientelistic obligations. We reflect on how these relations might help explain a variety of outcomes of interest, such as the organization of courts, judicial behaviour and judicial reform, and also highlight some of the methodological challenges of this approach in collecting and analysing comparative data. In doing so, we seek to build an agenda for research on informal judicial politics beyond Western democracies

Second, we turn attention to the case of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, to illustrate how our proposed framework can be applied. We ask: To what extent do informal networks shape the decisions of the Philippine Supreme Court? Though the influence of networks is widely acknowledged in the Philippines, this question has never been studied empirically. We seek to answer it by constructing a set of social network variables to assess how informal ties, based on university connections and work affiliations, may have influenced decisions in 47 politically high-profile Supreme Court cases between 1986 and 2015. Providing statistically significant evidence for the effects of political influence (presidential appointments) and hierarchical pressure (the vote of the Chief Justice) on the related networks, our analysis suggests a continuing tension on the Supreme Court bench between professionalism and informality. The findings illuminate larger issues at the intersection of courts and society throughout the region that demand a more robust research approach. We therefore recommend that more attention be given to the role of judicial networks, on and off the bench, to understand how judges decide in contentious cases. 
Björn Dressel is a Senior Lecturer at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University (ANU), and also currently holds an Australian Research Council Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA). His research is concerned with issues of comparative constitutionalism, judicial politics and governance and public sector reform in Asia. He has published in a range of international journals, including Governance; Administration & Society; International Political Science Review, and Pacific Review. He is the editor of The Judicialization of Politics in Asia (Routledge, 2012) and co-editor of Politics and Constitutions in Southeast Asia (Routledge, 2016).
Tomoo Inoue is a professor at the Faculty of Economics, Seikei University in Tokyo, Japan.  He is also teaches econometrics at the ESRI, the Cabinet Office, and at the ICU. His research field is the Applied Econometrics. He has authored a number of scholarly articles on a variety of topics, including the evaluation of the BOJ’s monetary policy effects via MS-VAR; the efficiency analysis of housing markets; the time-varying correlations among the G-bond yields in the Euro market after the Greek shock, and applications of social network analysis to trade flows in Asia.  He holds BA from Tohoku University, Japan, and Ph.D. from UCSD, USA. 

Date & time

Thu 23 Mar 2017, 12am


L.J. Hume Centre, Copland Building (24)


Dr. Björn Dressel, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University
Professor Tomoo Inoue, Faculty of Economics, Sakei University, Tokyo


Jessica Genauer


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