Just my opinion
By Raïssa Robles
The following are NOT on my list for the post of Chief Justice: Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
It is not because they are not good in the law or unqualified. Far from it. It is because the Filipino people and the Philippine Supreme Court need a new start. Considering what just happened, appointing any of the three would be like lighting a match beside a gas tank.
It would instantly draw criticism and give the disgraced, sacked Renato Corona all the more reason to bleat that he was right all along. His impeachment was meant to place the judiciary under the dictatorial hold of the President.
[Note: I’ve updated this piece just now by including the background of the current justices. See below.]
When I asked myself offhand who I would like to see as Chief Justice, only one name instantly came up in my mind – former Senator Rene Saguisag.
Unfortunately, Saguisag is 70, which is three years beyond the retirement age for a justice.
I wondered why I had thought of Saguisag. And I came up with the following reasons. I wanted the next Chief Justice to be independent-minded. I wanted someone who had experienced personal pain. I did not want someone with a corporate law background or who has risen from the ranks of the judges or in government service like many of the present associate justices have.
I want someone who has litigated for the poor, for the down-trodden, or for those whose human rights have been violated and for whom luxury penthouses at The Fort are not a priority buy.
And so I came up with a tentative list of names that I thought could be looked into. I have talked at one time or another to each one of them as a source:
Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, founding Dean of De La Salle University College of Law and chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group
Raul Pangalangan – former Dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law
Theodore Te – Professor of Criminal Law, University of the Philippines Vice-President for Legal Affairs
Evalyn Ursua – Executive Director of the Women’s Legal Bureau and who is with the Gabriela Women’s Party and was the lawyer of “Nicole” in the Subic rape case
Katrina Legarda – lawyer of the victim of former Congressman Romeo Jalosjos
Antonio A. Oposa Jr. – environmental law specialist
I’m sure I missed some names. But let’s get the ball rolling.
Please ask the CJ nominees about how they feel about reproductive health, the environment and mining and other controversial topics that are sure to land on the lap of the Chief Justice one day.
I surfed the Supreme Court website today and I never ever thought last year that I would see the photo below with the following blurb:
UPDATE, June 9, 2012, 3 PM:
I want to explain @Baycas and to other readers and commenters why I said the following in this piece:
“I did not want someone with a corporate law background or who has risen from the ranks of the judges or in government service like many of the current associate justices have.”
In coming up with my wish list I wanted to balance the present make-up of the Supreme Court. Most current justices are either from corporate backgrounds or long-time government employees. In fact, nine of the 14 are career. What’s wrong with that, you’re likely to ask. Two things, for starters.
One – It is rare for someone with a corporate background to look out for the down-trodden. I’ve heard many lawmakers mouth the saying that those who have less in life should have more in law. That’s not the case in this country.
And Two – Personally, I feel that corruption in government, particularly in the judiciary, is one of the gigantic tasks facing the nation today. Many judges and associate justices rose due to the ‘bata-bata’ system. You and I know that. One of the things I regret that was not done after the Edsa 1 People Power was a cleansing of the judiciary. Let’s start now.
Before I wrote this piece, I looked at the backgrounds of the present crop of Associate Justices. This is what I found on the SC website. Two justices – Bienvenido Reyes and Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe – did not have any write-ups on the website. The paragraphs in red are my own observations and not those of the SC website:
Justice Antonio T. Carpio – government bureaucrat starting 1992 and corporate lawyer before that. Co-founded in 1980 the Carpio, Villaraza, Cruz Law Office (Now CVC Law)
Justice Roberto A. Abad – His long-time boss was Solicitor General (OSG) Estelito Mendoza. Justice Abad joined the OSG in 1975. Estelito Mendoza was OSG head from 1972 to 1986. Mendoza was the lawyer of Lucio Tan who succeeded in getting the SC to dramatically reverse itself on the FASAP case on October 4, 2011. By the way, I looked long and hard for that SC resolution reversing the FASAP case. I could not find it anywhere on the SC website. I wanted to know how Justice Abad voted. Does anyone know?
This is important because there are suggestions to appoint Justice Abad as Chief Justice because he will be retiring soon. If he becomes CJ, how will the court handle all those cases involving Lucio Tan and his tobacco company?
Justice Presbitero J. Velasco Jr. – bureaucrat (undersecretary of justice) from 1995 to 1998. Court of Appeals justice in 1998. Supreme Court Administrator in 2001.
Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro – bureaucrat starting 1973 as a law clerk in the Supreme Court. January 1975 to November 1978, served as a Legal/Judicial Assistant and as member of the technical staff of the late Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro. 1978 to 1997 – Department of Justice – rose from the ranks. 1997 – Chief State Counsel.
Justice Arturo D. Brion – Cleared Renato Corona of any wrongdoing in the FASAP-PAL case; private practice in labor law with the Siguion Reyna Montecillo & Ongsiako Law Offices 1975-1982, corporate law; entered government service 1982 as Executive Director of the Institute of Labor and Manpower Studies under the Philippine Ministry of Labor until 1984, when he went on to become Vice-Chair of the Labor and Employment Committee of the Mambabatas Pambansa, Philippine National Assembly. He became Deputy Minister of Labor for Legal and Legislative Affairs from 1985 to 1986 before returning to private practice as Senior Partner of the Natividad Delos Reyes Maambong & Brion Law Firm 1986 to 1988; 2001 – appointed Undersecretary of Labor for Labor Relations; 2002 undersecretary of Foreign Affairs for Special Projects of the Department of Foreign Affairs; 2006 – Labor Secretary; 2008 appointed to Supreme Court.
Is Justice Brion pro- or anti-labor? I don’t know. Readers will have to help me out on this matter.
Justice Diosdado M. Peralta – convicted ex-President Joseph Estrada of plunder. Appointed to Sandiganbayan in 2002.
Justice Lucas P. Bersamin – 1986 – Regional Trial Court judge; then Court of Appeals Associate Justice; appointed to the Supreme Court in March 2003
Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo – Accused of plagiarism, cleared by SC. Background – 1989 – Municipal Trial Court Judge of San Mateo, Rizal; 1992 – RTC Judge Angeles City; 1995 – RTC Judge Quezon City; 2001 – Court of Appeals; 2005, conferred the Justice George A. Malcolm Award as best performing CA Justice and in 2006 was recognized by the Presiding Justice of the CA for outstanding performance in disposition of cases.
Justice Martin S. Villarama, Jr. – 1986 – RTC Judge of Pasig City; 1998 promoted to CA. 2009 – appointed to SC.
Justice Jose Portugal Perez – From Batangas like Corona – rose from ranks in the judiciary; starting 1971 – joined SC as legal assistant in Office of the Reporter; 1977 – confidential attorney of Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro; 1980 – supervising attorney in the Office of the Chief Attorney and rose to post of Assistant Chief; 1987, promoted to Deputy Clerk of Court and Chief of the Office of the Reporter; 1996, Assistant Court Administrator; 2000, appointed Deputy Court Administrator; 2008, promoted to Court Administrator. 209 – appointed SC Associate Justice.
Justice Jose Catral Mendoza – From Batangas like Corona. Rose from ranks in judiciary. Wrote decision reinstating criminal charges against Dante Tan, and granting petition for writ of Amparo filed by the families of missing University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, who were abducted allegedly by members of the military way back in 2006. This, despite being a son of a retired Air Force officer. 1977- joined judiciary as Research Attorney in the Court of Appeals; served as Senior Consular Investigator in the United States Embassy; 1980 – corporate lawyer with Alampay Alvero Alampay Law Office; 1985 – rejoined judiciary in Office of Justice Nestor B. Alampay and later in office of Justice Abdulwahid A. Bidin. 1989 – RTC Judge, Sta. Cruz Laguna; 1994 – Presiding Judge of Branch 219, RTC, Quezon City, which was designated as a special court for heinous crimes. For his fair handling of sensational cases, he was nominated by the IBP, Quezon City, for the Judicial Excellence Award. The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the Crusade Against Violence (CAV) recognized and commended him. In 2002, the VACC bestowed on him the “Outstanding Judge” award. In 2003, he was appointed Executive Judge. 2003, appointed to CA.
Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno – At 50, the youngest judge. To retire in 2030. April 2000- president of Accesslaw, Inc. From 1994 – 2008, legal counsel in various government agencies: Office of the President, OSG, Manila International Airport Authority, Department of Agriculture, Department of Trade and Industry, World Trade Organization-ASEAN Free Trade Area (WTO-AFTA) Commission, and the Philippine Coconut Authority. Handled various international trade and investment law disputes in WTO in Geneva, International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Washington DC, and in International Chamber of Commerce’s International Court of Arbitration (ICC-ICA) in Singapore and in Paris, employing bilateral dispute resolution mechanisms. Co-counsel for the Philippine Republic in cases involving the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 and PIATCO. 2009 – Executive Director of the policy think-tank of the Asian Institute of Management since February 2009; and . She was a UP Law professor for almost 20 years. From 1995 to 2002, she was Consultant for Judicial Reform, working with the United Nations Development Program, the World Bank, and the United States Agency for International Development. Taught law and economics at the Philippine Judicial Academy; international trade law at the Hague Academy of International law, University of Western Australia, and Murdoch University; electronic commerce law at the AIM, and international trade law at the Department of Foreign Affairs-Foreign Service Institute.