Thursday, June 21, 2018
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With Due Respect

First 2 of 12 SC vacancies: Who will Du30 anoint?

The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) has selected the nominees for the Supreme Court seats that will be vacated on Dec. 16 and 29. These are the first two of 12 vacancies in the high court during President Duterte’s six-year term.

Career jurists. The nominees for the first seat are Court of Appeals (CA) Justices (alphabetically) Apolinario D. Bruselas Jr., Japar B. Dimaampao, (PJ) Andres B. Reyes Jr. and Jose C. Reyes Jr., and Sandiganbayan Justice Samuel R. Martires.

The JBC wisely nominated career jurists only for the first slot given that the last three Court appointees (Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, Francis H. Jardeleza and Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa) were from the noncareer service. All these three are eminently deserving, but to balance the Supreme Court’s composition, I recommended, as a JBC consultant, that career jurists should now be given the chance to rise.

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Nominated for the second slot were CA Justices Bruselas, Dimaampao, (Jose) Reyes (the three were renominated), Rosmari D. Carandang, Amy C. Lazaro-Javier and Noel G. Tijam, plus lawyer Rita Linda V. Jimeno.

Under the Constitution, Supreme Court justices must be natural-born citizens and at least 40 years old, and have been for 15 years or more a judge of a lower court or engaged in law practice. More crucially, they must have four traits: “proven competence, integrity, probity and independence.”

Rights vs authority. Of these, independence and integrity are probably the most critical because the high court is the last bastion of democracy. It is expected to protect the constitutional rights of individuals against the abuse of authority of executive and legislative officials.

Understandably, all presidents appoint justices who they believe would uphold their program of government in every way possible. Inevitably, how to balance the fundamental rights of our people with the awesome police, eminent domain and taxation powers of the state is the ultimate test of the judiciary.

In addition, I believe that industry should also be a desired trait, given the high court’s heavy case load. As of now, it is burdened with over 8,000 cases, many of which have been pending for over “24 months from the date of submission” for their decision, the period given by the Constitution to decide them.

This means that each of the 15 magistrates have an average caseload of over 500 (8,000 divided by 15 equals 533) cases. In addition, each of them is raffled about new 40 cases per month. Consequently, each one must decide 40 cases per month, to keep up with the incoming load, and many, many more, to reduce the backlog. Indeed, the job awaiting the new justices is enormous and crucial.

Who will President Duterte anoint? And how will the anointed balance their duty to speedily protect constitutional rights with the President’s desiderata to propel his program of change for the nation?

Congratulations to Tessie Sy Coson, chair of BDO and a top leader of the SM Group, for having been chosen as the “Management Man of the Year” by the Management Association of the Philippines.

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In the late 1960s, Tessie was my student in commercial law when she was taking up commerce at the Assumption Convent in Makati. At that time, she wanted to become a lawyer but her father, the legendary Henry Sy Sr., vetoed her dream and, instead, asked her to help run their then modest ShoeMart store in downtown Manila.

Over the last 50 years, Henry turned the small shoe store into the largest business conglomerate in our country, helped in no small measure by his eldest daughter Tessie. In the process, he became the wealthiest Filipino with a net worth of over $16 billion.

Up to now, Tessie still pines to be a lawyer and bar topnotcher, such that she prefers to call me “professor” instead of “chief justice.” But I always respond that, as the head of the biggest bank and as a top boss of the largest conglomerate here, she can retain and direct the best and brightest practicing lawyers in the country and in the world without having to be one.

Comments to chiefjusticepanganiban@hotmail.com.

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TAGS: judicial and bar council, Rodrigo Duterte, Supreme Court, Tessie Sy Coson, vacancies
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