The Next Chief Justice: JBC Live Public Interview Day 2

Day 2 of the JBC Interviews. There are 6 interviewees. (Refresh every few minutes for updates)


-Supreme Court justice
-Engaged in law practice for over 22 years
-Bar reviewer in political law
-Professor of law subjects, UST
-Earned his law degree at Ateneo de Manila University
-Worked as lawyer for a year at Jose W. Diokno Law Office in 1968
-Appointed to the post of Asst. Solgen in 1985
-Acted as counsel for Equitable Banking Corp. during Estrada impeachment trial
-Authored 2 books on legal writing
Supreme Court Associate Justice Roberto Abad, who says he is unhappy with case congestion, delay in our courts.

During the interview, Abad also talked about his proposed guidelines for litigation meant to address case congestion problem. Abad suggested, "We will do it in two phases, we will come out with resolution implementing affidavits for all cases criminal cases. All cases should be heard in one sitting, with judgement rendered at the end of the day." Abad says the reforms can take 2 years.

On the nominees for the new Chief Justice, Abad believes if a candidate is qualified, it doesn't matter if he is an outsider or insider. But he reasons, "There is a natural bias for an insider, his performance is already tested and on the record. Appointing an outsider CJ is risky."

On the Truth Commission, Abad says, "I was appointed by Arroyo but I voted that the Truth Commission was constitutional."

On providing a calming effect in SC, he says "We have a wounded court. Especially after the impeachment trial (of CJ Renato Corona)  If I become CJ, the first thing to do is forgive. I hope the president will forgive us, I hope we can reconcile with the legislature."

Abad emphasizes the importance of trust.

On the separation of Church and State, Abad says, "PH, unlike US, is more spiritual and religious. There is some tolerance for religious practices. In fact, we even have masses in SC. But I am against religious personalities that try to influence decisions."

On jury systems, " We are a poor country, a jury system would be expensive. Jury trials, 90 of them, occur in US. The rest of the world has abandoned the system. Yung adversarial system, binigay sa atin ng mga Amerikano noon. Ang ebidensya na ipaparinig sa judge ay yung gusto ng abugado, hindi yung gusto ng judge. Kaya ang abogado pwede idelay ang kaso dahil sya ang nagdidikta. Hiniram din natin ang batas ng Amerika sa procedures, kaya dito sa atin kahit walang jury, parang may jury na rin, dahil ang judge ini-screen ang tanong para sa admissible evidence. We should abandon adversarial system in the judiciary where complainant and respondent are pitted against each other. Jury system will not work in PH."

Abad adds, "Some lawyers are better than other lawyers. Some questions are not asked. We propose a one-time hearing where all parties are present. I am not re-inventing the wheel. This is an authentic confrontation. The lawyers are free to conduct cross-examination, this will be done in a jiffy. The judge has the clearest picture of the case."

Abad also says, "Today, in our present system, the plaintiff and defendant will never meet!"

On what he has done in SC
, Abad says, "The SC's docket is not clogged, SC is best performer in appellate court. We have old cases that have not been decided, but you should look at new cases, we have been doing things efficiently."

On the complaints against Corona, Abad says he did not agree with the way complaints were filed, he says they were "hurriedly done."

On the state of legal education in PH, Abad says he has been suggesting that we go hard on the schools, "We have to raise the standards for admission of lawyers. I propose that we limit the bar to 4 subjects only. The basic subjects that they need to be able to go to private practice. First and second year maybe devoted for basics. In all countries, they don't have an exam like us. They only cover the major subject. The curriculum is so crowded! They only learn the law but not the practice of the law."

On multiple choice questions
: "Multiple choice questions is a tested measuring stick. There is no professional regulation authority that does not use multiple choice questions. They are time tested. It will not show creativity. But the essay portion will assess how they will sort out relevant facts, identify issue, prepare arguments, and their ability, for example, to prepare memoranda."

On flip-flopping
: "I hardly change my vote, but I did reverse my decision on the Manotoc case."

On his legacy:
"I want to be remembered as the chief justice that changed a lot of things. We would like to raise the standard for filing cases to a higher level, from probable cause to clear and convincing evidence."

On Bar Exams: "We want to give the exams after the second year, after they have studied the basics. Then, we can determine if they can proceed to next level. We can have oral exams and interviews. In Japan, students are required to pass through rigid apprenticeship before becoming a lawyer."

Abad also suggests, "Maybe we should have 2 Supreme Courts, one that will handle appeals and another to handle constitutional cases."

On rumored factions in SC: "If you examine our voting records, there are no groups or factions in the Supreme Court."

On impeachment trial: "It was healthy kasi it wakens us, it makes us consider where we are, makes us look at our inner being.  Corona is also my friend, I did give him support during his impeachment trial. But, I am not going to betray the constitution for a friend."

On bail system:
"Our bail system is anti-poor. The judges will reduce the bail only if you pay cash. You can pay cash if you have money. But if there is a rich person and a tricycle driver both charged for the same crime, who do you think will stay in jail?"

On trial by publicity:
"I have a 'liberalist' position on this, there is the freedom of speech and there is a judge in court."


- Professorial Lecturer, College of Law, University of the Philippines
- Member of IBP, Ph Bar Association, Inter-Pacific Bar Association
- Member of New York State Bar Association, American Bar Association
- Managing Partner, SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan (Since 1983) 
- Member, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines
- Recipient of Presidential Merit Award, 1994
- Finished 4th in the 1975 Bar (87.79%)
- Master of Laws, University of Michigan (1978) 
- Bachelor of Laws, University of the Philippines (1974)

On functions of a Chief Justice: "They are not really new to me. I have been president of Inter-Pacific Bar Association, the group has more than 2,000 lawyers. My role as litigator is much like the job of a solicitor in UK. I do my work diligently; excellence is the cornerstone of our lawfirm. Speedy disposition of cases is necessary to restore public trust."

Morales says SC's biggest challenge is inability of courts to swiftly render judgements.

On reforms in SC:
"I will implement the action program for judicial reform especially in matters of case decongestion. Biggest challenge facing SC is inability of courts to render judgments speedily; courts are undermanned. I will fill up all court vacancies, strengthen research staff."

On earning the respect, trust, confidence of incumbent justices: "I will reach out to my colleagues in SC, appeal to their patriotism. I would exhibit judicial restraint in matters involving economic policies."  

On top 3 priorities: "1) fill up vacancies, 2) increase salary to avoid brain drain in judiciary, 3) work for the increase of budgetary allocation of judiciary."

On his limited experience: "I have the requisite requirements: competence, integrity, independence."

On his judicial philosophy: "A judge's philosophy is shaped by code of judicial conduct. It states that a judge must determine the facts and apply what is applicable to the set of facts. However, there are situtations where there are no clear-cut provisions or norms are applicable but I have to decide the case. I have to navigate uncharted waters using my experience as a guide and guided by my beliefs: judicial activism and judicial restraint. I will be inclined to be an activist if a person is deprived. The judge must dispose of a case purely on the basis of merits in accordance of justice and law, without being influenced by any extraneous factors."

On possibly giving up his practice for gov't service: "I have a reached a point in my career that I am willing to render full time public service. I want to give back something to my country. Nagturo na po ako ng 15 years sa UP."

On budget cuts: "Resist the budget cut and increase the allocation."


- 5th time to be screened by JBC for an SC position
- Specializes in Public International and Constitutional Law
- Dean, University of the Philippines College of Law (1999-2005)
- Columnist, Philippine Daily Inquirer
- Director of Studies, The Hague Academy of International Law, 2000
- Visiting professor in Public International Law, Harvard Law School, 2007
- Lecturer on Disputed Islands in the South China Sea and SEA at The Hague Academy of International Law, 2008
- Amicus Curiae of the SC in the impeachment case of then-CJ Hilario Davide
- Chairman, Bantay Katarungan
- AB Cum Laude (1978), LL. B. (1983), University of the Philippines
- LL. M. (1986), S.J.D. (1990), Harvard Law School
- Diploma, The Hague Academy of International Law, 1987
- Philippine delegate, 1998 Rome Conference
- Laylin Prize for best paper in public international law, 1986
- Sumner Prize for best thesis on issues relating to international peace, 1990

Pangalangan believes it is time to review the 1987 Constitution.

On effects of the impeachment trial: "Had it not been for that event, no outsider would be sitting here as nominee, and no outsider will even accept the nomination."

On how he will improve the quality of life of SC employees: "Enhancing the salary would be the key element. It is not an iffy prospect."

On experience showing he has qualities of CJ: I have to fall back on my experience as Dean in UPLAW. Presiding over a faculty would require me to bring together, to have them accept measures they normally resist. Even the simple exercise of having evaluation survey can be resisted, or, say... having a dialogue between faculty and students.

Summarizing his opening statement (he did not read this earlier):  "I am more on the side of judicial restraint. But at this stage, it is hard to exercise judicial restraint."

On the opposition to his appointment as UP Dean: "I went on to serve, my performance was reviewed, and I was given a fresh mandate with full support."

On territorial dispute: "We have to define how we characterize the land mass at Scarborough shoal. In Spratlys, we have real islands existing, in Scarborough, we have some kind of rocks. If we characterize the features we have to answer: Do we see them as islands, as land that we should own, that generate their own EEZ and continental shelf? Or characterize Scarborough as rocks that generate only a territorial sea, not an exclusive zone? This is so we can lay our claim on that part underwater and consider them as part of our EEZ squarely under our rights. On the political side, I defer to DFA Secretary. I agree that we have to multi-lateralize the dispute. It is a multi-lateral dispute between several Asian countries."

On the "face of a Pangalangan court": "That is a difficult question. CJ must bring his colleagues together toa core agreement of the most important issues. Speak with a clear voice on constitutional norms. For me, it is a court identified with living up with the loftiest dreams of the 1987 Constitution that was brought about by a rupture in between Martial Law and Post-Marcos era. The court will exercise its powers judiciously."

On top 3 priorities upon assumption: "1)Consolidation of the institution. We are here because of a traumatic process. The institution must consolidate itself within SC. Court and its people and lower courts and trial judges and the other branches of government. It is something that ought to be done as soon as new CJ takes over to take advantage of the momentum of his appointment. 2) The managerial approach. I have been part of SC committees in the past, all bright ideas have been expressed. I'd rather not reinvent the wheel, we have to implement the wonderful ideas, we have to ask ourselves why the reforms are not embraced. 3) I will do exactly what I did in my past admin positions and address the question of staff morale and benefits. The institution thrives upon its employees."

On retaining the power of the SC under Art. 8, Sec.1, Supreme Court has jurisdiction over cases involving grave abuse of discretion
: I am rather a conservative on many things. On this point, I am prepared to accept the accept the text as it is. It is not a problem with the text, but with those who interpret the text. There is a way to read the expanded power without dragging the court. 

On recruitment of the brightest lawyers: "I openly recognized the most radical reforms carried out by SC. The way it was implemented was the way to go. This was the shift to the MCQ's. I appreciated as a professor, the careful way the reforms were phased in. It was in full consultation with law schools. The process for bar exam reforms continues today. I do appreciate the work that Justice Abad has done."

On teaching of ethics: "It is easy to do more of the same thing. It is time to focus on qualitative approach. By teaching them of ethical rules, they learn more about the loopholes and at that stage, we must transform the hearts and minds of lawyers. Most mundane decisions are actually moral choices, so we must recognize the moral dimensions of those choices and act upon them. They have to confront it as a matter of conscience."

On the recruitment of judges: "I want a managerial approach to recruitment of judges. It is my sense and it is my hope. There is a tranformation in the profile of careers that they take. Students choose career paths during the last 2 years as law students, if they want to be members of judiciary, etc. It was not just that the judges want to continue legal education, they have very little opportunities to exchange notes as judges with fellow judges on day to day work that they face."

On MCQ's during bar exams: "When I voted for the MCQ, it was on the assumption that there will be a panel of examiners who will bounce off questions unto one another. This year, I sat on Abad's to review questions on political law.  That is a wonderful innovation. If I could just add, there could be a preliminary vetting of questions."

4. Associate Justice ARTURO BRION

-SC Associate Justice for 4 years now
-Appointed Court of Appeals Justice in July, 2003
- Dole Secretary for 2 years beginning 2006
- Dole Undersecretary for Labor Relations in 2001
- DFA Undersecretary for Special Projects in 2002
- Lawyer, Siguion Reyna Montecillo & Ongsiako Law Offices
- Senior partner, Natividad Delos Reyes Maambong & Brion Law Firm
- Professor in UP, Ateneo de Manila University and FEU
-First placer in 1974 Bar Exams 
- Master of Laws, Osgoode Hall Law School of York in Toronto
- Class valedictorian, ADMU, 1974 

On getting the CJ post: Whether I am or I am not chosen as the Chief Justice, I dream of an independent court that is full, effective and co-equal. Court should be parterners of other departments in nation building. It must be independent in the two senses: a) in terms of institutional independence and b) in terms of decisional independence. Decisional of course is absolute, while institutional is supportive of the decisional. Underlying the constitution is the intent for cooperation because all departments are engaged in nation building. To me this is very important. This should be in the mindset of every justice, judge, official or employee of the government. We are here to cooperate not to be hostile. I dream of a court that is of use; with ethics and values. There should be focus on ethics and values.

On Bar Exams: Let us reform the bar examinations. Remove ethics as a subject. Make ethics and values a component of every subject. 10 percent of every subject should be on ethics and values. Give real emphasis on ethics and values. Reform on bar examinations (ethics and values) I will limit MCQ for 25 to 30 percent only. The rest will be in the type of the bar exam that all of us have been through. What is important, is the approach. Thinking. The manner of thinking.

On his aspirations: I dream of a court that can be accessed and trusted because of its fairness in relations with its decisions. The balance of its decision in all affected stakeholders. I want a court that is efficient, a human resource department that is well taken care of and a court noted for its decisional stability.

On improving the moral fiber of the legal profession: I will place greater stress on the pre-judicature program. The Court of Appeals nominees do not take the pre-judicature program. This should be expanded, this will open the awareness of our lawyers. Pre-judicature should be widened and graded. Perhaps there should be periodical exams in the course of the career of the judge. If the PhilJA gives seminars, seminars should have exams.

On vision for PH Judicial Academy: I would like to see a judiciary where you rise through merits. Perhaps we can have in the future a degree-granting institution

On corruption: Hindi ganun kasama ang judiciary. Napakaraming malinis na malinis. Kailangan natin ng cooperation sa executive, legislative. Sa panghuhuli ng graft & corruption, kaya po ba naming kami lang?

On public trust in SC: The public also needs to be assured that there are no shenanigans occurring within the judiciary. Ang kaso nagtatagal 5, 10 taon. Talagang hindi maniniwala sa atin. High esteem and respect for the court is not something we can achieve through the media.

On death penalty: "Ang kinatatakot ko ay kami po ay maaring magkamali." Brion adds, it won't be a deterrent to crime.

On how the SC is being perceived: There's a perception of graft & corruption (in SC). Sinasabing wala nang tiwala ang bayan. But there are so many positives. Ang Korte Suprema natin ay malakas. Kailangan lamang natin ng malakas na liderato upang makapunta kung saan dapat puntahan.

On judicial independence: It means institutional independence & independence of every justice in course of preparing decision.

On being a judicial pragmatist: A judicial activist is one that stretches the limits of the law in applying his actions in his decisions. Yung ginawa ni CJ Puno, na Writ of Amparo, Kalikasan, Habeas Data, these are examples of judicial activism, and can be done through legislation perhaps. CJ must be imaginative. Procedures are within competence of the SC. He was being a judicial activist when he did that. When I say I am a judicial pragmatist, hindi ako conservative, hindi din ako activist, but I remedy the situation as I see them. I have solutions within the confines of what is possible based on what is needed.

On his health: I am not sick, I am at my healthiest in the past 40 years. I have struggled against my weight for a long, long time. When I got married I was 180lbs. I went to law school, after the bar I was 225 lbs, tuluy-tuloy na until I got to 280lbs. It was a real problem until my doctor told me I have to stop because I am a dam about to burst. I-zipper ko na daw ang bibig ko. Then, slowly, I was able to reduce. The downside, naubusan ako ng damit.

On being "Mr. Immutability": I believe that for as long as we have the prohibition against 2nd motions for reconsideration, then our judgement should be immutable.

5. Commissioner RENE SARMIENTO 

-Commissioner, Commission on Elections (since April 7, 2006)
- vied for an associate justice position in 2010
Officer-in-Charge, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (2005-2006)
Member/Vice-Chairman, government panel for the peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF (1996 -2006)
Commissioner, 1986 Constitutional Commission (that drafted the 1987 Constitution)
Consultant, Presidential Committee on Human Rights (1987)
Associate Attorney, Jose W. Diokno's Law Office (1979-1988)
- Bachelor of Laws, UP College of Law, 1978 
- A.B. Political Science, San Beda College, 1974, Magna Cum Laude

On his judicial philosophy: My judicial philosophy is under 2 concepts: social justice, human rights.

On proposed sharing of judicial practices: Magandang programa ito ng SC. Isinasagawa ito ng Comelec: sharing of best election practices. I've attended conferences, natuto tayo sa kanila, i.e. satellite registration. Meron kami sa malls for PWDs. Pangalawa, yung pagkakatayo ng interagency ng NGO network to empower PWDs, inmates. Wala sa ibang bansa niyan.

On rehabilitation programs for offenders: Ako ay pabor sa restorative justice. By restoring his dignity, magiging productive member sya ng lipunan. Commmunity is involved in restoring dignity of that person. Ako ay pabor sa ganitong hustisya sa lipunan.

On counseling services: We can inspire people. Bumabalik ang tiwala sa sarili.

On his independence/integrity being tested:
Many times I ruled in COMELEC, about 6 cases ako ay dissenting. In those cases, I was sustained by SC. Pagdating sa SC, binanggit ako sa SC, at inaffirm ako. Tulad ng kaso ng Ang Galing Pinoy. I'm a GMA appointee, but i voted vs. AGP knowing he can't represent security guards well.

On political dynasties: Dapat ipagbawal political dynasty. There are bills in Congress pero nasa back burner. Kasama yung kay Santiago, Guingona, ito ay hindi naisakatuparan. In God's will, ako ay gagawa ng paraan para mabuhay ang constitutional provision na to.

On reforms he wants to implement: Sa COMELEC, nakaupo ako, anong pagbabago? We created an interagency, NGO network to empower detainees. More than 70,000 voted on the start of republic. October 2010, may nanalong detainee sa Pangasinan. We also created an interagency, NGO network to empower PWDs. This is a first and is recognized around the world. In 2013, dapat may accessible polling stations po sa matatanda, may kapansanan, at buntis. Finally, we have indigenous people, 16M of them throughout PH. Tanungin mo sila, "Kailan ka pinanganak, tag-singkamas, tag-mangga?" Empower them. I'm passionate about reforms sa ating lipunan.

On his integrity: Tita de Villa of PPCRV said in a letter to JBC na since 2008, 2009, registration, she saw my integrity, honesty. Walang reklamo ang Namfrel, PPCRV, etc., sa takbo ng halalan doon sa ARMM. Islamic Reform Movement gave me recognition. No elections are perfect. But I try my best to uphold integrity of the process.

On CONstituent-ASSembly OVER CONstitutional-CONvention: I'm in favor of constituent assembly as mode to amend the constitution. U.S. constitution was amended 27 times through Congress. No constitutional convention was convened in the entire US history to amend 27 times. Hindi malinaw ang constitution sa amendments. I think it was overlooked by Committee on Style. There are proposals to amend the economic provisions of the constitution. I am in favor of that in the era of globalization. Our restrictions, dapat mabuksan. Strictly on economic provisions.

On using Filipino as the language of SC rulings: Not at this time. Mukhang hindi pa handa ang bansa. I prefer opinions, ponencias in English. Gradually po. My decisions in Comelec were written in English.
On filing of case vs. GMA (COMM LAGMAN ADMITTED FILING OF CASE VS GMA WAS RUSHED. DO YOU AGREE?):  I disagree. Even before deciding on case, ito ay pinagaralan ko po. Nakita ko po recommendation. I've been in practice for  26 years. After evaluation, pwede i-file. Hindi haphazard. I studied affidavits vs. complainant. Sufficient yung time ng pag-aaral.


-Regional Trial Court Judge, Malolos, Bulacan, 2001-2011
UP College of Law, 1987
Masters of Philosophy, Divine Word Seminary  Philosophy, San Carlos Seminary. 

Siayngco says he retired early as he "stopped dreaming of promotion" & felt he had done enough in the Regional Trial Court. He however adds, I'm dreaming again of entering the judiciary. After the impeachment & people's high expectations, I'm dreaming again.

Siayngco: The fact that I'm here out of 70 in the long list, it's an honor for me to be included to the 20 candidates

Siayngco also says lower court judges feel it's unfair there are not enough merits/rewards for them.  

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