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Do you have another family?

FAIR GAME: Marites Danguilan Vitug

This was one of the questions asked of some aspirants to the Supreme Court by the vetting body, the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC). (All those who want to be justices of the highest court of the land pass through a public interview.) Here are imagined answers to real questions, thanks to Wikileaks of the mind.

Q: If appointed to the Supreme Court, are you the type who will be threatened or pressured by impeachment?

A: Oh, yes, especially if I’m guilty. For example, if I plagiarized major, major parts of a decision and I was found out–I’d be so embarrassed! I wouldn’t wait for an impeachment complaint. Why torture myself?

Or if I’ve been caught meeting with a litigant, who loves to tell all because he’s taken victimhood to heart, feeling down and out because of the decade-plus-old murder of his family. That would tarnish one’s name. After all, justices of the Supreme Court are supposed to be the most ethical of the pack and lead by example. If those grandstanding congressmen endorse an impeachment complaint because of this little meeting that happened in the chambers—if I were in that person’s shoes—I’d be so
worried and threatened.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?

Chief Justice Renato Corona heads the JBC (photo courtesy of Supreme Court Website)

A: I love this question, your honors. I watch concerts. Justin Bieber is too young for my taste. But Janet Jackson, she was awesome! Also, I like to attend socials, even if
it’s just the opening of a new car store. I get to rub elbows with

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the new rich, the power brokers, all kinds. I know that justices are not supposed to socialize—some describe the judiciary as a monastery—but that’s not who I am, deep inside. I like to feel others’ approval, be seen as an acceptable member of high society.

Q: Do you belong to any association?

A: A number, your honors. Homeowners association, parent-teachers association, alumni association, and the Philippine Judiciary Golf Club. The last one is my favorite. We organize golf tournaments for judges and justices. You are most welcome to join.

Actually, some select outsiders join us, like lawyers and a few businessmen. They pick up the tab, sometimes, and also pay for the trophies.

Q: Do you have another family?

A: Hmm. Can I request, your honors, for an executive session? Some members of the media are here. I don’t want to lie but I’d rather that I answer you in private.

Q: Do you have good interpersonal skills?

A: As I told you earlier, your honors, I socialize a lot. During cocktail parties, as you know, we have to do small talk, and I’ve become adept at that. I also entertain guests in my chambers, it’s sort of an open house, haha. I don’t want to be seen as a snob.

Q: Has someone offered you a bribe to decide a case in one’s favor?

A: Wow! This is heavy. Confession time. It’s not really a bribe, your honors. It’s more cultural, it’s the invocation of utang na loob. Someone who recommended me to this post, he had the ear of our former president, called me about a case. What can I say? I am loyal to those who put me here.

But, your honors, I know of others who accept money. Like in the military, I hear there is also pabaon, for justices who retire. Not only among my colleagues but even in…Oops, I may be talking too much.

Q: What do you understand by the word gravitas?

A: This is an easy one, your honors. If I may be candid, it’s something that a number of justices lack.

Q: What, to you, is wisdom?

A: Another easy ball, your honors. Again, if I may be honest, this is hard to find in a number of decisions of Supreme Court justices, especially those who flip-flop.

Q: Do

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you have any close friends or relatives practicing law?

A: Yes, your honors. They’re the ones who visit me in my chambers—and they bring their friends, too.

Q: What is the latest book you’ve read?

A: Uh, ah, hmm. I’ve been so busy, your honors, that my reading is limited to the decisions in the Supreme Court Website. As I’ve said, my spare time is pretty much taken up.

Q: If appointed to the Supreme Court, how will you help improve the image of the judiciary?

A: If I make it, I will be only one among 15 justices. I can take care of my image—I can perhaps hire someone like Midas Marquez to package me. As for the rest, I think the Court spokesman and PIO [public information office] head should prepare a ten-year PR plan. It won’t be that easy.

 

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  1. Rhea A. says:

    Are these really TRUE?

  2. Rhea A. says:

    Did this really happen during the interview???

  3. “Here are imagined answers to real questions, thanks to Wikileaks of the mind.”

  4. paterno says:

    this is stupid.

  5. MARITES DAÑGUILAN VITUG says:

    Rhea, the questions are real, true. I made up the answers, as I said in the first paragraph of this blog.

  6. Jose Buenaventura Flores says:

    Questions for the JBC, which I may want to suggest
    1) Do you know that it is in the interest of the state in the exercise of its police powers through the Supreme Court via the Constitutionally mandated Rules of Court to regulate the law profession, to this end, the passing percentage in the Bar examination maybe raised, or lowered as they see fit, in the latter case perhaps to arrest the massing up of an army of potential call center agents, who are lawyers?
    2) Do you know that the jurisdiction of the lower courts has been expanded; in civil cases, on the basis principally of the demand or the value of the property involved and some form of damages, and in criminal cases the weight of the penalty, be it imprisonment or fine or both?.
    3) Do you know that other than the bases above mentioned jurisdiction over cases is sometimes based on the nature of the case, for example in libel, regardless of the penalty, jurisdiction is with the Regional Trial Courts, violations of BP 22 are on the other hand exclusively within the jurisdiction of the lower courts, by virtue of an amendatory circular of not too long ago I believe?.
    4) Do you know that in cases where the penalty imposed is either Death , Reclusion Perpetua, or life imprisonment the review over these cases used to be exclusively with the Supreme Court, and now since the case of PP vs Mateo if I am not mistaken, an intermediate review is required?.
    5) Do you know that the findings of the lower courts which enjoy the distinct opportunity of observing the deportment of the witnesses, especially on matters of fact and more so when affirmed by the Court of Appeals are almost always adopted by the Supreme Court?
    6) Do you know that review of the decisions of the NLRC now exercised by the Court of Appeals are hitherto cases over which the Supreme Court is the final arbiter?
    7) Do you know that the precedent setting decisions referred to in Art 8 of the Civil Code, or judicial decisions that may become part of the laws of the land to be specific, are decisions of the Supreme Court?
    8) Do you know that if you try to draw a pattern, the trend will show that more and more cases are taken cognizance of by the courts as they descend in order, and less and less cases are handled by the Higher Courts , initially or by way of review. So we read less of the great debates on the pros and cons of the legal issues, this is not to blame the dynamism of the law which has created enduring syntheses, precedents in legal jargon.
    9) Do you know that despite the trend in the distribution of cases no lawyer occupies the position of branch clerk of court or the Deputy Clerk of Court in the first level courts or the so called “inferior courts”, at least in our part of the judiciary?.
    10) Do you know that the Judge’s recommendation, in the matter of appointment as a court employee, is not binding on the Supreme Court as the appointing authority, and yet except in very few exceptional cases; like the Manila Judge who refused to impose the capital punishment on religious objection, when legally bound to do so, or the dismissed Quezon City Lady Judge, the Supreme Court is rarely reported to have countermanded the recommendation.
    11) Do you know that the phenomenon observed , the Patronage system, and believed to be subversive of the policy of professionalizing the civil service, is closely intertwined with the matter of recommendation by the Judges?
    12) Do you know that this is not considered a new strain of beaurucratic malady, and that the Supreme Court has in fact provided for the grounds for resolving protest to the appointment of court personnel?
    13) Do you know that because it is the Supreme Court itself which has laid down the Rules it is duty bound to observe the same, and that while it has the power to disregard its own Rules it may do so only upon showing of exceptional circumstances as ground for the departure
    14) Do you know that Preliminary Investigation is technically not part of the Constitutional rights of an accused, and yet when the law grants him said right a denial thereof in a way not sanctioned by the Rules is a violation of his Constitutional right to due process?
    15) Do you know that like in most professions, the practice of law is conditioned upon the political, economic and moral state of society and the laws, the rules and regulations are only as good as their implementation?
    16) Do you know that there is a saying which goes” A lawyer who knows the Judge , is better than the lawyer who knows the laws?
    17) Do you know that given these realities, a new lawyer’s best refuge is in the Courts, not as practitioner but as an employee?
    18) Do you know that in a typical RTC court of twelve staffers, there is only one lawyer item, and none in the Inferior Court?
    19) Do you know that even if the Supreme Court mandates that certain positions should be filled up only by lawyers, to get a lawyers item in the judiciary is next to impossible, that is if you intend to rise on your own merits, chief among the hindrance is the matter of getting the Judge’s recommendation?.
    20) Do you know that while rising from the ranks is not a guarantee that one will get promoted to the lawyer item, since the appointing authority exercises a wide latitude of discretion, in the case of the Courts as previously discussed to overcome the merit of being the next in rank, the appointing authority must at least state its exceptional reasons for disregarding this merit or as per their own guidelines, their legal basis?
    21) Do you know that the Next in rank /Protestant may lose to the protestee/protegee/recomendee of the Judge on a ground of disqualification not available against the Protestee who is an outsider, that is, having been given during either of the last two rating semesters an “Unsatisfactory rating”, or more precisely a less than Very Satisfactory Ratings?.
    22) Do you know that the fact that a tedious process is in place to contest an “Unsatisfactory” rating, but the same does not come close to being a due process safeguard since even if such contest to the “Unsatisfactory ” rating remains unresolved, the Supreme Court still used this rating in dispute as a ground to deny the Protest to the Appointment of a court employee?
    23) Do you know that such Protest to the Performance rating, may take years to resolve?
    24) Do you know that one such Protest on the Rating had been pending before the OCAD, which holds office in the same building as the Supreme Court since early 2006 and still maturing?
    25) Do you know that per the Rating Form perse, no intelligent Rater can make a constitutionally compliant derogative Rating of an employee’s performance?
    26) Do you know that no employee nor Judge, as far as I can recall, has been heard about the feasibility of administering this Rating system and this , might therefore, have been arbitrarily imposed upon court employees?
    27) Do you know that there is yet a survey as to how many Judges can intelligently make a rating of the performance of their employees using the standard Rating Form solely, or how many judges have raised Constitutional concerns about the present rating system, or how many Judges have an idea as to how the Constitutional provisions they can recall could have a bearing on this rating system .My guess is, all are intelligent enough but are probably keeping their intelligent musings among themselves.
    28) Do you know that under the Constitution the Supreme Court has control over the employees of the judiciary, making it their duty, responsibility and administrative charge, such that a failure of administration, say , the failure to decide a simple case of Protest on the Performance rating, or a more complicated case of Denying a Protest to the Appointment of a court employee, using as a basis an “Unsatisfactory Rating, when the Protest on the latter has yet to be decided, might reflect negatively on the Supreme Court alone?
    29) Do you know that as with the trend in the distribution of jurisdiction over cases an intermediate body has been erected between the Supreme of Courts and the employees of the lower courts?
    30) Do you know that since the creation of the Office of the Court Administrator, a new justification has been formulated for the difference in a number of monetary benefits received by the Supreme Court employees, from those received by lower court employees?
    31) Do you know that a “failure of administration” specifically the failure to decide the Protest to the 2006 Performance Rating, may not seem at first glance to have any negative repercussion on the exercise by the Supreme Court of its powers of administration, since the creation of the office of the Court Administrator, in effect insulated the High Court from the pernicious effects of the maladministration except that the resolution of the Protest to the Appointment of the Branch Clerk of Court of Br 120 of RTC Caloocan used as basis, the yet to be decided performance rating protest?
    32) Do you know that the recommendation of a sub office, or a body under the Office of the Court Administrator , may also be used as a basis in deciding the Protest to the Appointment of a Court employee?
    33) Do you know that the three most Senior Justices of the Supreme Court, as Heads of the Divisions including the Chief Justice decide the Protest to the Appointment of a Court Employee?
    34) Do you know that their decision is final, and that said Decision which expectedly, deals on the merits becomes final even if no copy of said decision is furnished the Protestant, despite repeated pleas to that effect?.
    35) Do you know that the other ground for deciding a Protest to the appointment , the nebulous “psycho -social traits, is hardly available against the Protestee/Protegee/Recomendeee of the Judge who is an outsider?.
    36) Do you know that the three Senior Justices can deny a protest by declaring tersely that a Protest is denied on the basis of the phrase “psycho-social traits “even without declaring the basis for so concluding?
    37) Do you know that three most Senior Justices Denied a Protest on the basis also of the “Unsatisfactory “rating despite the fact that the contest to said Rating to date remains unresolved?.
    38) Do you know that while there is only one lawyer item in the RTC and none in the MTC’s, there are several lawyer items available in the staff, of every collegial court justice, and these are called Research Attorneys?
    39) Do you know that the item of Research Attorney is primarily confidential such that their term is “co-terminus” with the Justice ,and is understandable, while, the Branch Clerk of Court of an RTC enjoys security of tenure , his position not being co-terminus with the judge , and logically not Primarily Confidential as its technical definition may show.
    40 ) Do you know that during the term of Chief Justice Davide , a Constitutional Commissioner the Supreme Court to acted on a notable number of anonymous complaints , an idea which gained greater attention due to the discussions on the “revitalized and strengthened Office of the Ombudsman”?.
    41) Do you know that these concerns, like the absence of genuine opportunity for professional growth for lawyers in the lower courts, the matter of having Denied a Protest based on grounds which are legally inexistent, the absurdity of its own rules, maybe be taken cognizance of by the Supreme Court without going through the buereaucratic maze of having to file the cases to test their legality or rationality?.
    42) Do you know that even if these matters are brought to the attention of the Supreme Court, they can come out with up with a legally acceptable curt reply,” Noted”?

    43) Do you know that except in case of appointment by promotion, any transfer of a court employee to another branch, not in the character of a “Detail” means that he loses his security of tenure?
    44) Do you know that any such transfer subjects a court employee to a probationary period of one year, I think, making him virtually unemployed on the first day of transfer?.
    45) Do you know that this artifice can be used to entice a conscientious court employee, with a dismissal/resignation in the guise of a promotion?
    46) Do you know that despite all the difficulties of getting an item in the judiciary, much more a lawyer item, the Rules currently being implemented by the Honorable Supreme Court through the Honorable Office of the Court Administrator, via a mindboggling momentous absurdity of legal loophole grant the Judge the power to maintain his favorite employee as de facto “Branch Clerk of Court” until eternity, known down here as “Pansamantagal” capacity as the Officer In Charge (OIC). Senator Pimentel cried out that there out to be, by Law, more stringent limitations on these “Pansamantagal “appointments.
    47) Do you know that the Supreme Court may eventually see the urgency of reforms on these subjects, but may not may come up with a directive to show cause why, the one who suffered because of these dubious rules and clamored for reforms, should not be disciplined for putting the Supreme Court in a bad light?.
    48) Do you know that the Supreme Court has come out with their new Internal Rules, while running the cursor down ,an old wise counsel popped up, it said , in the matter I think of the challenge to the constitutionality of the probation law, the Government should be the first or was it, should be most concerned about the validity of the laws it implements .

  7. wheeeew, its too constipating to read the entire “do you know”.

    i will add my own:

    1. Do you know that there are two sets of laws in the country, one for the powerful and one for the non-too powerful?

    2. Do you know that the error of the SCORP is called the “law of the land”, all other errors are prejudicial errors which must be corrected?

    Now as an applicant to the judiciary, are you going to accept that as a fact or as a myth?

    Answer: As a fact your honors!

    You are hired!

  8. Johnny lin says:

    Marites, the interviews were probably boring to hell leading you to mediocre Wikileaks of the mind!

  9. These questions, long and circumlutory they may be, can be answered by only two words: I do or I don’t.

  10. Pot shots against the Chief Justice by Vitug has already become boring and annoying. Anything on Justice Carpio perhaps? Or is he too clean to criticize.

  11. Isabel Florin says:

    The judiciary is a byproduct of the kind of lawyers we have in the country. Maybe the law schools are a lot more responsible in nurturing legal minds that shall serve as the bedrock of justice and integrity. If we have good law schools, we produce good lawyers from whom we choose the dispensers of justice.

  12. I think you are being unfair to the legal profession. We have good law schools; in fact comparable to the best in the world. we have good products of reputable law schools who excel in their field. But of course, it is very easy to criticize and stereotype the legal profession because of the bad apples that outshine their low-key but morally upright colleagues. In law school, aspiring lawyers are taught the ideals and it is up to the students to nurture the ideals when he is eventually admitted to the bar. The practice of law always present a moral dilemma and it is up to the lawyer to decide which action to take. For the morally corrupt, then it is easy to succumb to the temptation and be a statistic to the stereotyping. But there are those who do the right thing too but sadly whose deeds are drowned in the publicity generated by those who amoral. Law is and still continues to be a noble profession. Despite the perception it receives from those who unkindly looks down on it, know that lawyers are there to fight for your right to air your criticism as it is a basic right to freedom of expression under our democratic society, though how hurtful it may be to the crusader.

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