It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent the judiciary in this grand celebration of our Diamond Anniversary and to give a resounding Mabuhay to Sigma Rho.
On this occasion, let’s go back in time, recall and pay tribute to the selfless and dedicated brods who had served and well in the vineyards of justice. Let me start with Justice Narcisio Nario, Justice Nick Ferrer and Justice Catalino Castaneda who in the recent past sat with distinction in the Sandiganbayan. Let’s give them a rousing applause. Kudos to the first Presiding Justice of the Court of Tax Appeals, Justice Ernie Acosta, who, thru the years has made his mark in terms of delivering efficient and effective services in the tax court. It’s upon Justice Ernie’s able stewardship that led to the construction of the CTA building entirely out of CTA funds.
At the Court of Appeals, we have incumbent Justice Hakim Abdul Wahid who, because of his exemplary government service, should have been appointed to the Supreme Court. Past PJA president Romeo Barza and former Manila City Prosecutor, now Justice Jhoseph Lopez are presently with the appellate court. Let us not forget the following brods who had dispensed justice as members of the appeal court – past PJA president Danilo Pine, Mario Guariña, Alfredo Marigomen, Quirino Jose Abad Santos, Eduardo Abaya, Buenaventura Guerrero, Jose Racela, Luis Javellana, Elvi John Asuncion and Vicente Q. Roxas. But while they were not really part of the judiciary, Simeon Marcelo and former Grand Archon and a dear classmate, Victor C. Fernandez did the country and frat proud as Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, respectively. They had, during their incumbency in those capacities, the rank of presiding and associate CA justice, as the case may be.
We have a number of brods appointed as trial court judges. But the most popular of them all, retired and incumbent brods considered, are former GA Raul De Leon and Judge Willie Reyes. And why so? One of the stated reasons is that no brod has yet to be cited for contempt for arriving late in court trial sessions presided by them. But while perhaps a bit exaggerated, the real reason is that the better prepared lawyer brods seldom if ever lose a case in their salas. But this does not of course minimize the legal savvy of our litigators.
In the Supreme Court, out of l73 justices from l90l to 2014, the Sigma Rho has so contributed eight (8) justices. Justice Marcelo Fernan, the Father of Speedy Trial, Justice Pedro L. Yap, retired justices Efren I. Plana, Serafin R. Cuevas, Rodolfo A. Nocon and Abdulwahid Bidin. Senior Associate Justice Brod Tony Carpio and myself presently sit in the Court. Out of the 20 Chief Justices, we have so far already produced two – Chief Justices Fernan and Yap. And let us not give up hope on our brod Tony Carpio still getting the top post. He truly deserves the position and the High Court will certainly benefit from his brilliant legal mind, outstanding leadership abilities and innovative administrative skills… Ang sabi nga ng isang governor – WE CAN NEVER CAN TELL. . Destiny has a way of playing itself out.
I doff my hat to our brods in the different levels of our justice system who have rendered and still rendering exemplary judicial service to our countrymen and have supported the Supreme Court as a stabilizing fulcrum of our government and the last bulwark of democracy. They have done their work and discharged their professional responsibilities despite the heavy work load, modest financial benefits, decrepit courtrooms and the ever presence of threats to life and limb. By my count, there are 10 unsolved murders involving judges. It was only in 2003 when RA 9227 effectively significantly upped the basic salary of magistrates. Much credit for the timely enactment of this piece of legislation after a long and difficult process belongs to former Senate President Edgardo Angara and incumbent Senate President Franklin Drilon. Hopefully, a better financial package can be arranged for the underpaid, but overworked jurists. Without doubt, SP Franklin Drilon and newly minted Senator Sonny Angara can and could address these legitimate aspirations.
But notwithstanding the not so attractive pay packages and difficulties inherent of being a magistrate, I still urge our lawyer brods to join and consider a career in the judiciary. Although the law sets the compulsory retirement age for judges at 70, the retirement benefits package is quite attractive. The apex of a lawyer’s career is, as the saying goes, to be appointed to the Supreme Court. Know that the judicial position is reserved only to the stout-hearted. And never was it known that Sigma Rhoans are faint-hearted.
But beyond the mundane, We should also remember the authority and the power to decide disputes among men emanate from the Supreme Judge, the ALL SEEING and Knowing himself. The story from Exodus reveals that upon the advice of Jethro and with the command of God, Moses appointed thousands of judges to decide simple and small disputes. These judges eventually became rulers of their assigned areas. Moses became the first CJ as he decided the more difficult and hard cases and resolved appeals from his judges. Thus the powers of a magistrate are GOD-given and a good performance, they say, will assure your reward in heaven. Last, but not least, by serving in the judiciary, especially in the Supreme Court, I believe that a Sigma Rhoan, with all the ideals inculcated on them during the preliminary rites of passage will immensely contribute to the greater glory of our brotherhood of gentlemen – the Sigma Rho Fraternity.
In closing, this reminder to my fellow brods who had served and who are still serving the judiciary: you belong to the very few who been have chosen and thus chosen gave the best years of your lives in honor of our great fraternity and in service of God and the Filipino people.
Mabuhay kayo at muli Mabuhay ang Sigma Rho.