MANILA, Philippines – A long-time women’s rights lawyer is eyeing a seat in the country’s highest court. If she bags the appointment, she will be the 15th lady justice to sit in the Supreme Court (SC).
Ma Rowena “Bing” Guanzon put her advocacy in the limelight on Thursday, May 29, on the first day of public interviews by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) with candidates to the SCAssociate Justice post.
“I chose to be single, because I am a feminist… having grown up in a family where women are strong… We were not compelled to marry. We were not encouraged to marry. We were not discouraged to marry,” she told interviewers from the JBC panel.
Guanzon believes there should be more women in the judiciary, citing statistics that only 33% of trial judges in the country are women.
“For women’s rights advocates like me, the personal is the political,” she told the JBC panel. Guanzon was pertaining to the prominent feminist argument and slogan that realizing the gravity of women’s conditions at home and in society is in itself political action.
Guanzon was a former commissioner at the Commission on Audit (COA). She is also a co-founder of the Gender Justice Network, composed of women-lawyers providing free counsel to abused women.
Along with 12 others, Guanzon is vying for the vacated post of retired Justice Roberto Abad. (READ: Get to know nominees for SC Associate Justice)
The JBC is conducting the two-day public interview session with the SC justice aspirants. The council will submit a shortlist of candidates to President Benigno Aquino III, who holds full executive power to appoint the new High Court magistrate.
Chief Justice’s batchmate
Only 3 members of the JBC panel were present during the first day: retired Court of Appeals Justice Aurora Santiago-Lagman representing the private sector, Jose Mejia representing the academe, and Maria Milagros N. Fernan-Cayosa representing the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, among the other half of the JBC members who weren’t present during the public interviews, was the batchmate of Guanzon at the University of the Philippines College of Law.
Sereno graduated at the top of her class, while Guanzon ranked 6th.
At age 57 and with almost 20 years of law practice, Guanzon said she has earned the right to apply to the country’s High Court.
Guanzon is the only candidate for Abad’s post with political experience.
She was the mayor of Cadiz City in 1988. She ran as congressman but lost her bid for re-election in 1992.
As mayor, Guanzon said she had a zero-tolerance policy for the illegal numbers game jueteng.
“Buti na lang nag-mayor ako nung bata pa ako, kasi matapang pa ako noon,” she joked. (It was good that I became mayor when I was young, because I was very brave then.)
Unlike other candidates for the SC Associate Justice post, however, Guanzon’s character references do not include politicians. Only former SC justices Hilario Davide and Flerida Ruth Romero were listed.
Like Guanzon, COA Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan is also nominated for the post of SC Associate Justice.
It was during Pulido-Tan’s and Guanzon’s time in COA when the special audit report – used to bolster evidence against those charged by the justice department over the illegal diversion of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to fake projects and beneficiaries – was released.*
One of Guanzon’s pet projects at the commission was the creation of a litigation office within COA, to avoid its dependence on other legal arms of government.
The PDAF scam is the biggest corruption scandal to hit the country in recent years. – Rappler.com
(Editor’s Note: In a previous version of this story, we said former Commissioner Guanzon testified before the Senate blue ribbon committee. She did not. But she was invited to appear. We regret the error.)
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