Documentation of JBC Public Interviews continued...
Four members of the Judicial and Bar Council were present on Days two and three of the public interviews. They were Chief Justice Renato Corona, Justice Regino Hermosisima, Atty. J Conrado Castro, and Justice Aurora Santiago-Lagman. Candidates interviewed on Day 2 were Appellate Court Justices Remedios Salazar Fernando and Portia Alino Hormachuelos, Atty. Katrina Legarda, Atty. Epifania Mendoza, and former UP College of Law Dean Raul Pangalangan.
Day three interviewees were Sandiganbayan Justice Edilberto Sandoval, Commission on Elections Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, Atty. Lourdes Sereno, and Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Andres Reyes.
Only three members of the JBC (without CJ Corona) were present to interview the last five candidates on Day four. The candidates interviewed were Dean Amado Valdez of the University of the East College of Law, Atty. Alberto Valenzuela, Court of Appeals Justices Vicente Veloso and Japar Dimaampao, and Ateneo Law School Dean Cesar Villanueva.
DAY 2 of JBC PUBLIC INTERVIEW, 21 JULY 2010
JUSTICE REMEDIOS SALAZAR FERNANDO. Justice Remedios Salazar Fernando prides herself with a .05% reversal rate from the Supreme Court and a zero backlog per month at the Court of Appeals. She offers herself to the court and to country and will maintain her independence.
For Justice Fernando, her most difficult decision was the case of Jonas Burgos, the first Writ of Amparo case filed before the Court of Appeals and that which lasted for more than a year.
On the issue of the oil depots in Manila, Justice Fernando believes that that oil depots should be moved to other safer places because the 96 million pesos that the city of Manila earns from the depots would be nothing compared to the possible destruction these could do in Metro Manila.
On enhancing poor’s access to justice, she actually participates in Supreme Court’s endeavors to increase access of underprivileged to justice.
On handling public pressure, Justice Fernando said she is guided by the Code of Judicial Conduct that justices should not be affected by public opinion and should just consider the facts of the case and the relevant laws. Transparency for her is also important for better understanding of the Court’s decisions.
Justice Fernando was able to answer Justice Corona’s questions on the Supreme Court’s latest rulings with regards to election law issues and Writ of Kalikasan.
JUSTICE PORTIA ALINO HORMACHUELOS. Justice Portia Hormachuelos is currently 69 years of age and if appointed, will only have one year to serve as a Supreme Court justice. When asked on what she could do in one year at the SC, she said that she is hopeful and committed to writing decisions for SC speedily and accurately.
Justice Hormachuelos believes that the quality of decisions of justices are more important than quantity—the substance of the decision and on whether the decision is just. She also believes that the content of the decision matters more than the language used in the decision.
Since Justice Hormachuelos has been interviewed by the JBC numerous times in the past for the same position, the Judicial and Bar Council did not have so many questions to Justice Hormachuelos. It should be noted however that before ending the interview, CJ Corona commented that the Justice Hormachuelos has the Chief Justice’s vote.
ATTY. KATRINA LEGARDA. Atty. Katrina Legarda was nominated to the Supreme Court by UP College of Law Dean Marvic Leonen. Based on Atty. Legarda’s own description of herself, she believes she is independent, hardworking, and she thinks out of the box. She grew up in England. She’s a member of the Order of the Purple Feather and worked in ACCRA Law and left the Office in 1992.
Only when she was preparing her requirement for the SC did she realize how much she could contribute to the Supreme Court.
One of her greatest achievements in her law practice is the Supreme Court’s recognition of the “battered woman syndrome” in People vs. Marivic Genosa. She also handled the statutory rape case against then Congressman Romeo Jalosjos. She is currently assisting young lawyers in handling child abuse cases.
Atty. Legarda’s view of judicial independence is that justice is understood by the common people, whether they win or lose, because there is adherence to rule of law. She believes that integrity has to do with one’s personal life. She also believes that background investigation of candidates should be conducted by the JBC.
Her most important contribution to the Supreme Court would be her experience as a litigator, as a law professor, and an advocate. She argues a case from the lawyer’s table. She thinks that she should be chosen over the other applicants because of her out-of-the box way of thinking, she sees how the law practice has evolved and that she is willing to take risks.
On whether she is ready to live a life of a magistrate, Atty. Legarda believes she is ready and that she could be effective in Supreme Court.
On why she did not apply in 2009 when there were six vacancies, she reiterated that it was only when she was nominated by Dean Leonen that she entertained the idea of applying to the High Court.
She is not in favor of death penalty and believes that it is not a deterrent to crimes but the fact that the criminal is aware that he/she will be caught and prosecuted.
For her, a judge found to be guilty of bribery should not only be dismissed and disbarred but also prosecuted.
On the Philippine Judicial Academy, she believes that modules should be based on skills. There is also a need to hold workshops and other training programs for competency enhancement.
ATTY. EPIFANIA MENDOZA. Atty. Mendoza finished her Bachelors Degree at the Ateneo De Manila University in 1980 and ranked nine in the Bar Exams. She took up Public Administration from the University of the Philippines. She never handled any criminal case because she does not like litigation. She is a partner in a law office in Baguio City where an accounting firm is also housed.
ATTY. RAUL PANGALANGAN. Former UP College of Law Dean Raul Pangalangan was the last of the five candidates in Day 2’s public interview. It was Dean Pangalangan’s fourth time to be scrutinized by the JBC after being nominated and shortlisted three times in the past for the same position.
Aside from being a professor of and an expert on Constitutional and International Law, Dean Pangalangan is also an advocate of judicial reform as Chair of a non- government organization, Bantay Katarungan where he helped in the petition to Commission on Election to release the names of partylist representatives which they also won. He has also been engaged in what he calls a public interest practice of law doing pro bono work on cases involving public interest. He considers these two involvements his greatest contributions to the court when appointed.
In his two- term stint as Dean of the UP College of Law, he said that one of his accomplishments was his efforts to improve the quality of life of the students by raising funds for scholarship from donors with whom he made clear that the only thing he could give in return was a thank you.
His greatest challenge, on the other hand, was when the Supreme Court appointed him as amicus counsel in the impeachment of then Chief Justice Hilario Davide. While he believed that CJ Davide was innocent from the impeachment charges and that the case was not ripe for adjudication, he was also aware that there were rules to follow. He said he was glad that the case did not prosper.
Although he spent many years in the academe, he said that he is also familiar with the actual practice of law since he has done the works of a practicing lawyer in the early years of his career and with the limited private practice allowed by UP. His one foot, he said is in the academe and the other, in the actual practice. One of the biggest cases he handled was the reclassification of San Miguel Corporation stocks.
For him, the most important role of a justice in the judicial system is to judge properly.
One of the reforms he suggested to the court is the admissibility of cellular phone evidences citing the abduction of Jun Lozada in relation to the ZTE-NBN deal and the involvement of professional checkers to improve legal education. As a PHILJA lecturer on International Law, he suggested holding of workshops and interactive, hands-on training. He added that disciplining of judges should not be left to the Court alone because it islimited with various rules.
Contrary to some of the candidates that were interviewed, Dean Pangalangan did not think there is a need for charter change even in the selection process of justices saying that it can be improved and perfected. He said he can live with the text of the 1987 Constitution and that adjustments can be done in the interpretation. If constitutional amendment pushes through, he prefers constitutional convention rather than constituent assembly. And if ever a constituent assembly is formed, he believes that Congress and Senate should vote separately and resolve conflicts through the formation of a bicameral conference committee although he suspected that this would be challenged in the court.
When asked on what should be done in case an international law is in conflict with the local law, Dean Pangalangan cited the Abbas vs Comelec which indicates that Philippine Constitution should prevail.
He was against death penalty since he did not think that it will solve crimes but the effective forensic investigation and prosecution. He added that the real penalty against criminals is to keep them in jail. He elaborated by saying that there are other ways to punish and more ways to deter crimes.
On the legality of same sex marriage, Dean Pangalangan said it is not legal because the law indicates marriage is between a man and a woman but homosexuals should be given equal protection in the law and that there should be an effort to break all barriers that discriminates homosexuals. He said that the Comelec decision excluding Ladlad as a partylist was lamentable.
On exempting 15 years and below from criminal prosecution, he said that what should be done is prepare proper jail and rehabilitation for the kids. They should not be exempted however, they should be placed in proper rehabilitation.
On how the court should respond if a judge is proven to have accepted bribe, he believes that he/she should be dismissed and disbarred and possibly charge criminally depending on the gravity of the offense but he is open to granting judicial clemency, after five years but within the bounds of law and ensuring that no special treatment is granted to them. What’s important, he said, is to stick with the standards.
DAY 3 OF JBC PUBLIC INTERVIEW, 22 JULY 2010
JUSTICE EDILBERTO SANDOVAL. Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Edilberto Sandoval has been in the said Court for 14 years. He teaches criminal law and has been a Bar examiner and reviewer on the same subject.
Justice Sandoval thinks that he can also excel in the SC like the other Justices from the Sandiganbayan, even if he has focused on criminal law for the past 14 years.
He has not read the judicial reform program of the Supreme Court.
He applied for the Chief Justice post in April 2010. Here are some of his answers during the said interview that may still be relevant to his application as AJ:
Priority program: Protection of judges from harassment
On judicial independence: Independence is a relative term. If the appointee decided in favor of the wish of the appointing power, that does not mean that there was no independence but there are times when the appointee has to oppose the appointing power.
Ideal judiciary: SC that truly deserves the respect of the people because of its decision that is not favoring anyone; An SC that can suggest to the people that there are remedies but not street protest but through appeal to the JBC, etc.
Judicial responsibilities: He has to be consultative with the other Associate Justices; Set the example.
Others: As Presiding Justice of the Sandiganbayan, made decisions that the public will continue to respect the Sandiganbayan.
COMM. RENE V. SARMIENTO. Commissioner Sarmiento is the Chair of the 1st Division of the Commission on Elections and presides the en banc in the absence of Chairman Jose Melo. Before this, he was engaged in private practice where he had the chance to handle a case with JBC member Atty J Castro as the legal counsel of the opposing side. During the interview, Atty. Castro said he has high respect for Commissioner Sarmiento for not appealing the case and in agreeing with the decision of the judge, something that Atty. Castro experienced for the first time in all his years as a lawyer. He ended his 25 years of private practice and closed down his law office so he could join the Comelec. He said it was a tough decision but was at peace with it being fully convinced that it was high time to serve the people again by being in the government.
As a Comelec commissioner, he considers his decisions sustained by the Supreme Court, despite being outnumbered by the en banc, as an accomplishment such as the case of Ladlad partylist and the release of names of partylist representatives filed by Bantay Katarungan. His greatest challenge, on the other hand, was being offered money by litigants and politicians which he never accepted and when they’re left at his office, he would always find ways to return it.
His involvement in the 2010 elections was the deciding factor to finally accept the nomination by UP College of Law Dean Marvic Leonen. He said that he first refused the nomination which he expressed in a letter to the JBC but after seeing the challenges in the recent election, he thought it was time to help the country by being in the High Court.
His past involvements include being a member of the selection committee of judges during President Corazon Aquino’s time and of the Presidential Human Rights Commission where he represented PAHRA, a non-government organization. He was also in the Committee on Judiciary in the 1986 Constitutional Commission that pushed for the approval of the formation of the JBC and the Commission on Human Rights.
He worked at the Office of then Senator Diokno where he was trained to be a generalist. He was appointed by former President Fidel V. Ramos as part of the negotiating panel with the CPP-NPA. He drafted guidelines on evacuation that emerged due to displacement issues during the Martial Law. He was also one of those who drafted the Asian Charter on Human Rights.
He taught underprivileged law students at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines and handled classes at the San Beda College of Law. He has been handling pro bono cases to help the poor.
For him, it is important for the court to find ways to provide the poor with access to justice so he suggested the improvement of justice on wheels and the institutionalization of paralegals or barefoot lawyers with the assistance of experienced lawyers.
On political dynasty, he suggested the passage of the bill prohibiting political dynasties.
On abandoning our claim to Saba, he proposed the deletion of the provision defining material territory because it might exclude out historic title and believes that we can still claim Saba through diplomatic means.
On constitutional amendments, he proposed the separation of judicial and administrative functions of the Comelec; give Commission on Human Rights power to prosecute and not just investigate; and perhaps shift to federalism to address insurgencies and rebellion but thinks that this should only be done after the Aquino administration has settled down.
If any change will be made, he preferred constitutional convention and believes that Congress should vote separately otherwise, Senate would be overwhelmed with Congress.
On allowing foreigners to own public lands, he said he is against it so the country can preserve its heritage. He said privileges could be given to them through a passage of a law. He added that mining rights given to foreigners could be restricted.
The JBC said there were letters sent to them opposing the application of Commissioner Sarmiento which includes one from the Alagad Partylist which he suspected was due to a decision released by the Comelec 1st Division, which he was a member of, against a petition by Alagad.
He, along with other Comelec commissioners, has a pending case at the Office of the Ombudsman based on a complaint filed for failing to implement the automated election at the ARMM. He said he has not received a copy of the complaint yet that is why he has not sent his response to explain. He is also implicated in a case filed against the Comelec by the Philippine Computer Society which is currently at the fact finding stage.
ATTY. LOURDES SERENO. Atty. Sereno has been in the practice of litigation for 23 years and her involvement in litigation cases is both at the international and local levels. She also taught law for more than 20 years. She is currently the Executive Director of the Asian Institute of Management and a pioneer of law and economics in the country. She has been involved in various engagements with the World Trade Organization, GRP Peace Panel, etc. She believes she also has expertise in other fields of laws such as criminal law, labor, anti-graft and corrupt practices, and taxation. She teaches Obligations and Contracts, International Law, etc.
Atty. Sereno believes she understands the systemic problem of the judiciary and that justice infrastructure is a key factor towards economic growth.
She would propose changes in the resolution/decision management system and put importance to the Court’s human resources.
On what made her decide to apply for the Supreme Court, she answered that at the end of the day, one can only have one house, one family, and there is always the deeper search for meaning. She also thinks that it is her objective to contribute to national quest for direction and justice. She believes in the virtue of temperance.
She is also ready for a secluded life because she has to be psychologically prepared for the workings of a justice. Her family is likewise ready for it, if she is appointed. She also consulted Justice Feliciano and former Chief Justice Reynato Puno in her application.
CJ Corona asked her with regards to a petition of her UP students because of constant absences in class. Atty. Sereno denied this.
JUSTICE ANDRES REYES. Justice Andres Reyes is the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals. He thinks that aging of cases is needed to speed up disposition. He also thinks that there is a need to improve people’s access to justice.
Justice Reyes was nominated by his colleagues. He dreams of becoming a Supreme Court justice. His father served the Court of Appeals but did not make it to the SC. He said that he will bend to the will of the Judicial and Bar Council on whether the Council will nominate him or not.
As Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals, he meets with the Clerk of Court regularly and goes to CA branches in Cebu and CDO to make them aware that he is watching the affairs of the Court of Appeals.
Very few questions were asked to Justice Reyes because he has already been interviewed by the Judicial and Bar Council in previous vacancies.
DAY 4 OF JBC PUBLIC INTERVIEW, 23 JULY 2010
DEAN AMADO VALDEZ. Dean Amado Valdez is the current Dean of the University of the East College of Law. He is also an Ulirang Ama Awardee.
One of the significant cases he handled is a murder case involving a mayor of Pampanga where the mayor was allowed to go on bail. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of his side of the case in a decision penned by the Associate Justice Hilario Davide.
His most important contribution to the Court would be his lifetime philosophy that a Supreme Court decision must always stand on high moral grounds and that would contribute to the people’s more understanding of the SC.
In answering the question on why he should be nominated, Dean Valdez shared that his application to SC is actually a leap of faith. He did not feel privileged over the other applicants but deep in his heart, he could be an agent of change.
He believes that the rights of the people should be prioritized over development. On his take on decisions that are legally right but morally wrong, Dean Valdez answered that he will give moral dimension a better play because the law has to be defined in different ways. There are man-made laws and there are moral laws which are supposed to be the higher kind. Justice to an individual may not be justice to all people.
On how he handles pressure from influential people, he responds by deciding the case immediately and putting the country his priority.
On whether the Pandacan Oil Depots should be transferred, Dean Valdez answered that the Pandacan depot is a tragedy waiting to happen. For him, the simple solution is for the city of Manila to buy an area in Cavite, develop that area and cause the transfer of these companies and develop Pandacan—which is a win-win solution.
Justice Hermosisima asked whether Dean Valdez is related to former President Fidel Valdez Ramos and Dean Valdez confirmed he is related with the former President. Justice Hermosisima then asked why he did not seek any position during FVR’s term as President. Dean Valdez said he wants to make it on his own.
Atty. Alberto Valenzuela. Atty. Valenzuela worked for Estelito Mendoza’s Law Office for 13 years. He also had the opportunity to work for the Ponce, Enrile, Cayetano, and Manalastas law firm. He said he is fortunate enough to handle different cases to include ill-gotten wealth cases, rehabilitation of PAL, etc. Atty. Valenzuela joined the Department of National Defense upon the invitation of then Secretary of National Defense, Gilbert Teodoro. He then worked for DND as Undersecretary for Legal Defense. He resigned from DND in March 2010 to help in the presidential campaign of Teodoro.
On why he applied straight to the Supreme Court and did not consider applying to Court of Appeals or Court of Tax Appeals, he answered that based on the minimum requirements of the Constitution, he is eligible to apply to the Supreme Court. He also added that a lot of notable justices of the Supreme Court came from the private practice.
One of their major accomplishments at the DND is the establishment of a clean bidding process. One of his roles at the DND is to review and provide legal opinions on various DND contracts. He was able to prevent the BAC’s procurement of a P1.2 Billion night capable helicopters because of the failure of the contractor to provide the minimum requirements of DND, based on his review.
JUSTICE VELOSO. Justice Veloso has been a commissioner of the National Labor Relations Commission for 15 years and has been a justice of the Court of Appeals for six years. He has been teaching labor laws for 10 years. He is the Chair of the 16th Division and it is his first time to apply to the Supreme Court.
DEAN CESAR VILLANUEVA. Cesar Villanueva is the current Dean of Ateneo De Manila University College of Law.
Being an expert in commercial law, he was asked to share his thoughts on how the judiciary can help in the improvement of the economy to which he said that he’s taking the position of former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban who said that when it comes to the rights of the people, the judiciary should come in but when it comes to the economy, it should be left with the experts unless there is an abuse. The court’s role is to interpret the economic provisions of the Constitution in a way that can help the other branches of government.
When asked about judicial independence, he talked about separation of powers of the different branches of government where the judiciary can freely perform its functions without any influence from other branches so that people can confidently come to the Courts. He said that it is time for the government to put its money to where its mouth is and emphasized the need for an increased budget for the judiciary.
Although Dean Villanueva said that it is difficult to ensure independence among the members of the judiciary, he suggested three ways that could help: 1.) paying the judges well; 2.) putting an end to impunity on erring judges; 3.) missioning and visioning of the judiciary led by the Supreme Court. He emphasized the importance of proper dispensation of justice because it is related to economic reform.
He considers being a member of the judiciary both a sacrifice and a privilege. He said that his best contribution to the Supreme Court would be the judicial life that he lives as well as his independence.
He also pointed out the need for a justice to live a simple life that is committed to the dispensation of justice. He said that he is willing to give up whatever luxury he is experiencing now for the sake of being in the judiciary because he sees it as a privilege and considers it divine.
Some of the books he has written include publications on Philippine Corporate Law and Law and Practice on Philippine Corporate Governance. He has also prepared a workbook on Corporate Practice on SEC Jurisdiction for the Philippine Judicial Academy.
Dean Villanueva has expressed views different from the other candidates in terms of foreign ownership of lands and Constitutional amendments. For instance, he did not see foreign ownership of public lands as detrimental to the economy, therefore proposed the amendment of the Constitutional provision on prohibitions regarding this. He said that if the country wants more investors to come in, leeway should be given to foreigners so they could have a security of ownership. He added by saying that if foreigners own land in the country, the land remains and it benefits the people. While he agreed that it will increase the cost of owning lands in the country, he did not think that it will put Filipinos to the disadvantage. On the contrary, he said that it will help Filipinos to prosper and will push them to compete with foreign entrepreneurs.
He is also the only one that preferred Constituent Assembly as a mode of amending the Constitution. He said that since members of Congress are duly elected by the people, there would be no need to conduct an expensive election for the Constitutional Convention. He elaborated by saying that it is time for the Filipinos to learn to trust that our leaders will do the right thing. Congress in a Constituent Assembly, according to him should vote separately so that collective wisdom can be secured from the Senate whose perspective is national and from the House of Representatives whose perspective is parochial.
He still preferred a presidential government but with unicameral legislature because he did not think that the country can afford a federal government.
JUSTICE JAPAR DIMAAMPAO. Court of Appeals Associate Justice Japar Dimaapao is an expert in taxation, commercial, and civil law, and has written books and has been a bar reviewer on these fields of law. He assured the JBC however that he is committed to learning more about the other fields of law being aware that SC is a court of general jurisdiction. He was also knowledgeable of the recent SC doctrines and jurisprudence.
He ranks 18th in the CA and is a member of various CA committees such as the Committee on Raffle, Zero backlog and, Travel and finance. As a Muslim, he’s been tapped as a lecturer on the Sharia law in PHILJA. Although he invoked the Tripoli Agreement, he believes that being a Muslim should be the last reason in hiring a candidate but his/her competence and integrity. Although he’s handled numerous cases in his six years as CA Justice, with 116 cases currently pending for decision and a disposition rate of 13.58 last year, there were three cases, he said, that stood out which he considers his achievements because of their impact on the people concerned. One was a case involving more than 300,000 parties and the Pacific Plans, the other was Castillo vs Meralco and the one involving AMSLAI. His most challenging case, on the hand, was a taxation case, Fort Bonifacio Dev’t. Corporation vs BIR Commissioners.
Justice Dimaampao has been in CA before but not as AJ. He left it and went back to trial practice due to former Justice Secretary Tuquero’s request to join the Department as a Senior State Prosecutor. Before CA, he was engaged in private practice and became an RTC Judge in Mandaluyong City in 2000.
He teaches law at the University of Sto. Tomas and is handling review sessions with law students from Visayas and Mindanao free of charge.
His wealth of knowledge and integrity are for him the reasons why the Council should consider him, same qualities he thinks would be his greatest contributions to the court.
He elaborated by making suggestions on what he thinks are the two principal problems in the judiciary: 1.) On protracted disposition of cases, he said that the Court should revisit rules, for instance, on summary procedures saying that the Court can exercise its rule making power to shorten the period of resolving motions; 2.) On corruption at the judiciary, he suggested that the court should impose rigid and stringent procedure in selecting judges and the imposition of penalties against erring judges like dismissal and disbarring.
Unlike the other candidates, Justice Dimaampao is in favor of death penalty but only on heinous crimes as mandated in the Constitution. He believes that it can deter crime.
He said the same sex marriage is not legal because the law is clear that marriage is an exclusive contract between a man and woman.
He agrees about sex education but depending on the coverage and topics that will be discussed.
He is not in favor of exempting 15 year-old kids from criminal liability because it will increase crime rate but suggested the application of retroactive justice and added that the Revised Penal Code is a sound criminal law.