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Mejia’s two ‘sins’

IN REACTION to my column last week, newly appointed Judicial and Bar Council member Jose V. Mejia asks “Professor Monsod to afford me the proverbial benefit of the doubt as I embark on my new role as a member of the JBC representing the academe,” and proceeds to not only cite some of the items in his Curriculum Vitae (CV) but brings in his love of country, his origins (he says he comes from a family of teachers/public servants, citing his sister Winnie Mejia-Constantino, one of the brightest persons I met while at the Neda) and his vow not to betray the memory of his late father. (Inquirer, 5/19/11)

I am sorry, Mr. Mejia. But given the sad state of affairs with respect to governance and corruption in the Philippines—to which the judiciary and the ombudsman have arguably greatly contributed—neither the country nor myself can afford to give you the benefit of the doubt. There can be absolutely no room for doubt as to the competence and integrity of a regular member of the JBC, because the latter’s role is crucial in changing that sad state of affairs: the members of the JBC must ensure that the short list of nominees to the entire judiciary (from the Supreme Court to the Municipal Circuit Trial Courts), as well as to the Office of the Ombudsman, presents nothing but the best and the brightest (preferably without partisan affiliations).

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Mejia makes it sound as if I am not aware of his qualifications. I assure him that I read his CV—the one posted in the JBC website (which, presumably, he supplied). Otherwise, I would have had no basis for my conclusion in last week’s column, that his outstanding qualification was that he is Ochoa’s classmate. Certainly, nothing in that CV qualifies him as outstanding as far as the academe or law is concerned.

Only consider: the last time he taught in a college of law (Ateneo de Manila) was 11 years ago. At De La Salle University, (DLSU) where, according to his CV, he has been connected since 1989, he was teaching in the College of Business and Economics, not in the College of Law—simply because there was no college of law at the DLSU until last school year. And since he went on sabbatical last year, that means he has yet to teach a single course in the DLSU College of Law (CoL).

Thus there is more than a little intellectual dishonesty in the Mejia CV which states, under “Teaching Experience,” that Mejia holds the rank of “Faculty Member & Assistant Professorial Lecturer 7 at the DLSU CoL and Commercial Law Department from Sept. 1989-Present.” There is a sin of commission and there is a sin of omission here. What is omitted is the mention of the DLSU College of Business and Economics where Mejia was a faculty member teaching commercial law to business and economics undergraduates from 1989 to the present, not law students in a professional law school. What is committed is the deliberate grouping of the DLSU CoL and the Commercial Law Department to make it appear as if Mejia’s academic experience was in a college of law between 1989 and the present. For shame.

It would also seem that the DLSU CoL itself did not think that Mejia was an outstanding member, or at least important enough to mention. Why do I say that? Well, for one thing,

DLSU’s Official Newsletter “2401” (Vol. 40 No. 21 p.3), in announcing the launching of the CoL. states: “CoL will be headed by Atty. Jose Manuel Diokno and Atty. Virgilio De Los Reyes, dean and vice dean of the college, respectively. Among those who signed on to teach at the college are Atty. Ma. Soledad Margarita Deriquito-Mawis, Atty. Domingo Añonuevo, Atty. Katrina Legarda, Atty. Rodrigo Lope Quimbo and Atty. Arno Sanidad.” Mejia did not even merit a mention. And for another, I looked at the official DLSU faculty list (http:// law.dslu.edu.ph/about/faculty.asp). The above names and their short CVs are again included—all very impressive. Again, no mention of Jose V. Mejia.

Let us make some (odious) comparisons. First, with the DLSU CoL faculty—their CVs outshine his. Next, with Dean Amado Dimayuga, representing first the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and later the academe in the JBC—he had the brains, the competence and the principles. Then, with Dean Artemio Tuquero, Mejia’s immediate and short-lived predecessor who was either bypassed by the Commission on Appointments or had his nomination withdrawn—he also had a great CV, but his independence was in question because of his political Iglesia ni Cristo connections—his reputation was not unsullied.

Unfortunately, Mejia’s credentials are not only not good enough in comparison, but the Ochoa connection casts doubt on his ability to make independent choices as well, his avowed love of country and his desire to live up to his father’s ideals notwithstanding.

And while we’re at it, we might as well take a look at the other three regular members of the JBC. Ma. Milagros Fernan-Cayosa, the other new appointee representing the IBP, does have an impressive profile—but one has to withhold judgment until one can compare it with those of the other two nominees submitted by the IBP from which President Aquino chose. As for the private sector representative, Justice Aurora Santiago Lagman, her profile is probably the best of the lot, and one can only say that if everyone in the judiciary had her competence and integrity, the Philippines would have no problem. As for Justice Regino C. Hermosisima, representing retired Supreme Court justices, the less said of him the better. I suggest that the Aboitiz family who reputedly put him there should persuade him to resign.

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