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With Due Respect

BBM’s Cabinet, Senator Poe, Justice Singh

In my humble opinion, the Cabinet members nominated by President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (BBM) deserve public appreciation and recognition.

TRUE, MANY OF THEM WERE SOURCED FROM HIS POLITICAL CAMP like VP-elect Sara Duterte-Carpio (education), Victor Rodriguez (executive secretary), Benhur Abalos (interior and local governments), Jesus Crispin Remulla (justice), Susan Ople (migrant workers), Trixie Cruz-Angeles (press), and Anton Lagdameo (special assistant). Nonetheless, they are qualified and should be given the chance to show their worth in helping the President-elect unify our people and fulfill their aspirations.

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True, also, Remulla has been denounced for his alleged “atrocious track record of shameless apologia for Red-tagging, human rights violations, and attacks on press freedom.” However, that was his stance as a partisan member of the legislative branch. Now, let us cautiously accord him the opportunity to become a statesman as the dispenser of justice in the executive branch.

On the other hand, BBM’s technocrats, led by the indefatigable Benjamin Diokno as finance secretary, economic guru Arsenio Balisacan as chief of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), former UP president Alfredo Pascual as trade boss, San Miguel Corp. executive Manuel Bonoan as public works head and lawyer Bienvenido Laguesma as labor and employment secretary, have undeniable experience and expertise in their respective fields. I believe BBM chose them because they are respected professionals, not political wannabees.

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Diokno has faithfully served the government for decades under various presidents, the latest as Bangko Sentral governor; the other day, he announced the retention of national treasurer Lea de Leon and the current undersecretaries in the finance department. I know Undersecretary Antonette Tionko, a capable lawyer-CPA, has quietly backstopped the department very well. Impeccable banker Felipe Medalla will replace Diokno in the Bangko Sentral. Notably, Diokno, Balisacan, Pascual, and Medalla are brilliant UP grads. On their robust shoulders rests our people’s hope for better lives.

AT STAKE WAS NOT JUST HER QUEST FOR THE PRESIDENCY, it was also for her legitimacy as an elected senator and her inherent rights as a human being.

Indeed, after grueling legal battles in the Commission on Elections and the Senate Electoral Tribunal, Sen. Grace Poe—a foundling left in a church in Iloilo—won decisively in the Supreme Court that definitively upheld, by a vote of 9-3-3, her status as a natural-born citizen of her beloved Philippines. Ergo, she could continue serving as a legislator and aspire for the presidency. In several columns in 2015 and 2016, I have unequivocally supported her plea.

However, her personal victory was not enough. She tirelessly labored in the legislature to extend her judicial victory to other foundlings by sponsoring, together with some equally-obsessed lawmakers, a bill which became Republic Act No. 11767 last week.

The law put to final rest the many issues raised by the lawyers in their memoranda and by the justices in their separate opinions, including the definition of who foundlings are and the rights and protections to be accorded to them “from the moment of birth.”

JUSTICE MARIA FILOMENA D. SINGH, 55, was fittingly elevated to the seat vacated by Senior Associate Justice (SAJ) Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe. Like SAJ Bernabe, J Singh climbed the four rungs of the judicial ladder from the Quezon City (QC) Metropolitan Trial Court to the QC Regional Trial Court, then to the Court of Appeals and, finally, to the highest court of the land. Significantly, SAJ Bernabe inherited her seat from another eminent career lady jurist, Conchita Carpio-Morales

Like her two predecessors, J Singh is “unpredictable” and has had no backlog since she started her judicial calling. Moreover, she has more than a fair chance of becoming another SAJ (or even a chief justice) along with three other 55-year-olds: Justices Ramon Paul I. Hernando, Jose Midas P. Marquez and Antonio T. Kho Jr.

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Again, like SAJ Bernabe, she finished her law degree at the Ateneo de Manila thereby enabling the alums from that blessed school of law to remain at six (seven, if the Ateneo de Davao grad is added) of the 15 high court members, besting the former top producer, the UP College of Law, that has only two members now. Verily, Ateneo dominates the Supreme Court but UP sways the BBM economic team

Finally, J Singh is the first female professorial chair holder in law of the Metrobank Foundation. She delivered her first lecture on March 5, 2021, at the Supreme Court Session Hall though she was, at the time, still an appellate justice.

I intend to monitor her Supreme Court career and her fidelity to the constitutional ideals of “proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence” as long as the Good Lord would allow me.

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TAGS: Artemio V. Panganiban, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Grace Poe, Marcos Cabinet, Maria Filomena D. Singh, With Due Respect
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