The former Chief Justice of the Republic of The Philippines, Renato Corona, has left his replacement with a big responsibility of redeeming the public’s trust in the Philippine judiciary system. That is why the Civil Law Student Council (CLSC), led by its president, has filed a recommendation to nominate Associate Justice Roberto A. Abad for the vacant position.
Manila, Philippines – Associate Justice Roberto A. Abad has been officially nominated to be the next highest magistrate of the Supreme Court of the Republic as three independent individuals and a Local Student Council filed a recommendation before the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
Civil Law Dean Nilo T. Divina and lawyer Gregorio M. Batiller Jr. were the first two to submit official documents dated June 14. Four days after, former senator Rene Saguisag and Civil Law Student Council (CLSC) President Mark Arthur Catabona followed suit.
Civil Law Student Council recommends
Before submitting a recommendation letter to the Judicial and Bar Council, Catabona first consulted former CLSC presidents and alumni, as well as the current members of the SC executive board, regarding the plan to nominate Abad. He gained the support of both groups.
“They were really supportive of the idea and they even helped us out in drafting the nomination letter. We, the Student Council, [then] came up to a conclusion that we want a Chief Justice who will lead again the Judiciary independently and freely from the pressures of the other branches of the government,” Catabona said.
As soon as the verdict of the Senate on the impeachment trial was known, a campaign for a chief justice (CJ) who best represents integrity and independence began. It wasn’t long before Assoc. Justice Abad’s name came up.
“It was not difficult for us to nominate him since the CLSC and even the alumni fully support this. Justice Abad is already a part of the Supreme Court and that should be an advantage. For him to be the Chief Justice will never be foreign to him as compared to the other nominees who never had a seat in the SC,” added Catabona.
He also mentioned that it was only after the nomination letter was submitted that the CLSC informed the Civil Law Faculty, which responded well.
The nomination process
According to Catabona, the process commences when someone submits the copies of nomination letter before the JBC. The nominated applicant must manifest his acceptance of the recommendation either in the recommendation letter itself or in a separate document.
Also, the nominee must meet the qualifications set by the JBC: a natural-born Filipino citizen, at least 40 years of age, must have been serving as a judge of lower court or engaged in the practice of law in the Philippines for fifteen years or more.
Upon the deadline, the JBC first checks if the nominee has sufficiently complied with the constitutional requirements as well as additional statutory qualifications. The final list shall immediately be published in the newspaper for general circulation.
The JBC also has to determine the competence of the applicant. They also verify the applicant’s educational background, experience, performance and other. Interviews are also conducted by the JBC with the applicants to get a better assessment. The applicant must acquire a majority vote from all the members of the JBC in order to be nominated for appointment.
Once the JBC has already determined the top three names, it shall be presented to the President who will appoint the next Chief Justice of the Republic.
The constitution has set another prerequisite for the nominee to comply with: “Must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence.”
He added, “The applicant may submit to the JBC testimonials and certifications from government officials, NGOs and other institutions that may prove his accountability and loyalty to the people he serves. Lastly, the applicant must show that he cannot be easily influenced and corrupted by the favors of the other branches of the government and even prominent people and institutions.”
Primus inter pares
Catabona reiterated that the CJ is the highest magistrate of the highest court of the country and is regarded as the “primus inter pares” of the Judiciary.
“He administers this [pertaining to Philippine Judiciary] branch of the government. During en banc sessions, he schedules the cases that should be tackled first. Although he is only entitled to one vote, he has the influence which cannot be denied. Most importantly, he is the face of integrity of the Judiciary. He does not only lead the entire Judiciary, he also protects the trust and confidence given to it by the people.”
The nominated Associate Justice
Assoc. Justice Roberto A. Abad is currently the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
Abad earned his law degree at the Ateneo de Manila University in 1968 where he was a constant Dean’s Lister. He initially worked at the private practice of the Jose W. Diokno Law Office in 1968 and eventually served the public when he served as a technical assistant from 1969 until 1973 and an associate attorney for one year in 1974.
He also joined the Office of the Solicitor General in 1975. After ten years, he was appointed as the Assistant Solicitor General for about a year before he created his own law firm.
In addition to working in the field of law, the Associate Justice helped several non-government institutions such as the Free Legal Assistance Group, Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Angels of Hope Orphanage. He also trained the lay and the catechists of the Archdiocese of Manila.
Under the late Secretary Sedfrey Ordoñez, he worked as a legal consultant for the presidential committee on nuclear power plant from 1988 to 1990. He then worked as counsel for the Equitable Banking Corporation.
Abad is not only practicing law; he is also a professor in Political Law in the University after the late Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion recruited him from the OSG. He also became a bar reviewer in the said course. In line with this, he has also authored several books such as Practical Book in Legal Writing and Fundamentals of Legal Writing.
Catabona also noted, “I have known Justice Abad because he was the dean of the Faculty of Civil Law way back when I was still in first year and I also used his book in Legal Writing in my studies.”
With the Justice’s background, the CLSC believes that Abad is the perfect candidate for the position.
“We also see the potentials of a great leader in him and the characteristics of a chief justice that will bring the faith of the public back to the Judiciary. What we need now is a chief justice who is genuinely free and autonomous form other branches of the government.”
Reporting by Oswald Fabi-Sablay