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22 vie for Philippine high court chief post

Publication Date : 25-07-2012

 

Who among the 22 nominees vying for the post of Chief Justice has “proven competence, integrity, probity and independence?”

Competence, as provided in the Constitution, implies superior intellect as shown by impressive academic qualifications and training in various facets of the law.

But superior intellect alone is not enough if it is not matched by management skills. The position involves overseeing an independent branch of the government that exercises jurisdiction over the judiciary—from the Regional Trial Courts to the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court itself.

Given the public outcry to overhaul the judiciary following the impeachment and subsequent removal of Chief Justice Renato Corona, the criterion of independence has become a major consideration.

Independence means upholding the Constitution and the laws of the land without being swayed by any personal or partisan considerations, and pursuing reforms in the judiciary without being unduly influenced by entrenched interests and existing power blocs.

Against the backdrop of the Corona trial, some legal experts insist now is the time for an outsider to head the highest court of the land in order to give way to a top-to-bottom overhaul of the judicial system.

President Benigno Aquino himself has indicated he is open to the possibility of appointing an outsider. And an outsider may just be what the judiciary needs.

All outstanding

The nominees now being considered by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) are all outstanding men and women who have excelled in their profession.

The JBC, mandated to screen the candidates and come up with a short list from which the president will select the next chief justice, began interviews yesterday.

In alphabetical order, the 22 nominees are Supreme Court Associate Justice Roberto A. Abad; Presidential Commission on Good Government Chairman Andres Bautista; Associate Justice Arturo D. Brion; professor Soledad Cagampang-de Castro; acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio; Justice Secretary Leila M. de Lima; Human rights lawyer Jose Manuel I. Diokno; Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Teresita J. Herbosa; Solicitor General Francis H. Jardeleza; women’s rights advocate Maria Carolina T. Legarda; Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro; lawyer Rafael Morales; former University of the Philippines law dean Raul C. Pangalangan; Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez. Commission on Elections Commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento; Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno; lawyer Manuel DJ Siayngco Jr.; University of the East law dean Amado D. Valdez; Supreme Court Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr.; lawyer Vicente Velasquez; former Ateneo law dean Cesar Villanueva; and former Executive Secretary Ronaldo B. Zamora.

The nominees can be grouped into five convenient clusters—associate justices; academics; government executives; lawyers; and legislators.
While the nominees are all lawyers, only those who make a living primarily from the practice of law, although they may have been in the three branches of government at one time or another, are being considered.

Academic excellence

If brains or superior intellect were the main criterion, most nominees would fit the bill.

Consider this: Abad is a dean’s lister at Ateneo de Manila University where he earned his law degree while Brion graduated with a law degree from Ateneo in 1974, cum laude as well as class valedictorian, and went on to top the bar examinations in the same year with a grade of 91.65 per cent.

Carpio graduated cum laude and valedictorian in 1975, and placed sixth in the bar.

De Castro earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, cum laude, in 1968, and law degree in 1972 among the top four of her class in University of the Philippines (UP).

Sereno is an economics major from Ateneo and studied law in UP where she topped her class, graduated cum laude in 1984, and placed 14th in the bar exams the same year.

Velasco obtained his AB degree in Political Science from UP, finishing the course in only three years. He went on to take up law in UP, and graduated eighth in the class of 1971 with a grade of 1.79. He placed sixth in the bar exams that same year with a grade of 89.85 per cent.

Among the academics, the standouts are Pangalangan, an expert on constitutional and international law; and Villanueva, a former dean of the Ateneo Law School where he graduated cum laude and class valedictorian in 1983. Villanueva also obtained a Master of Laws from Harvard in 1989 and placed second in the Philippine bar examinations in 1981.

Government officials

From the government, Bautista is the holder of a Bachelor of Science degree in Legal Management from Ateneo in 1986, a Bachelor of Laws degree (valedictorian) from Ateneo in 1990, and a Master of Laws from Harvard in 1993.

De Lima graduated in 1980 from De La Salle University with an AB degree in History and finished her Bachelor of Laws degree (salutatorian) at the San Beda College of Law in 1985.

Jardeleza graduated salutatorian/cum laude from the UP College of Law in 1974, then moved on to place third in the bar exams the same year. In 1977, he obtained his Masters of Law from Harvard.

Among the lawyers, Diokno, the founding dean of De La Salle College of Law, chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group, and one of the country’s foremost human rights lawyers, is not a pushover. Diokno studied law at Northern Illinois University and graduated Juris Doctor of Laws, magna cum laude, in 1986.

Morales is an acknowledged expert in banking, finance, securities, investments, mergers and acquisitions. He became a member of the Philippine Bar in 1975. He is a UP graduate (B.A., cum laude, 1970; LL.B., cum laude and class valedictorian, 1974).

Among the legislators, Zamora is a UP graduate.

At 18, he became the youngest ever editor in chief of the student newspaper, Philippine Collegian. In 1965, he earned a degree in Political Science (magna cum laude) and in 1969, Bachelor of Laws degree (magna cum laude). The valedictorian of his law class, Zamora topped the 1969 bar examinations.

Management expertise

Those with proven outstanding management expertise include Brion, who became a member of the Supreme Court in March 2008 after a two-year stint as secretary of labor and employment, and Carpio, acting Chief Justice who served for four years as chief presidential legal counsel under the Ramos administration until 1996, and De Castro, a former presiding justice of the Sandiganbayan.

Pangalangan and Valdez also have sufficient managerial expertise as dean of law schools.

Among the outstanding government executives are Bautista, De Lima, former chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, Herbosa, Jardeleza and Sarmiento.

Cagampang-de Castro used to be the executive director of the Minerals Development Council under the Office of the President, while Diokno is the founding dean of De La Salle College of Law, and chair of the Free Legal Assistance Group.

Legarda is founding chairperson of the Child Justice League, a foundation dedicated to providing free legal assistance to abused children and children in conflict with the law.

Morales was chosen as the leading lawyer in corporate and commercial law by The Asia Pacific Legal 500 in 2004 and was on the list of the 2003 International Who’s Who of banking lawyers.

Rodriguez served as vice governor of Misamis Oriental from 1984 to 1987 and was head of the Bureau of Immigration from 1998 to 2001.

Zamora, first elected as assemblyman of the defunct Batasang Pambansa in 1978, became a member of the executive committee in 1981 and also served as majority leader and as minority leader in the House of Representatives as well as executive secretary from 1998-2001.

He served as a member of the Executive Committee under the Marcos administration (1978-1984); minister of state, Department of Public Works and Highways (1978-1984); member, Board of Regents, University of the Philippines at various times from 1972 to 2001); and presidential assistant for legal affairs (1975-1978); and assistant executive secretary for legal affairs, Office of the President, (1972-1975).

 

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