Justice Abad: ‘We have a wounded court’

SC Justice Roberto Abad talks about a 'wounded court' and how the appointment of an 'insider' would help heal that wound

MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court Associate Justice Roberto Abad faced the Judicial and Bar Council on Wednesday, July 25, and said the High Tribunal is now a “wounded court” after the impeachment and removal from office of its previous chief justice, Renato Corona.

“We have a wounded court … after the impeachment trial,” Abad said. He had to take a pause before answering a question on the issue. “We have a problem. We were taken aback [by the impeachment]…it discouraged most of us.”

Abad, the most senior in the High Court in terms of age, will be retiring in two years when he reaches the mandatory age of 70. He was appointed to the Court by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2009.

Abad stressed however that he did not think the Corona impeachment trial violated the principle of separation of powers. But he said he did not agree to the rushed filing of the impeachment complaint against Corona.

JBC member Rep Niel Tupas Jr, chief prosecutor in the Corona trial, asked him further about the impact of the trial on the judiciary. Abad admitted the trial was “healthy” for the court as it forced its members to examine their conscience.

If he becomes chief justice, he said, he will move for a reconciliation between the judiciary and the legislative. “We will forgive the legislative. You will also forgive us.”

But the High Tribunal needs to heal its wounds and the President should not exacerbate the situation by appointing an outsider as chief justice, Abad said.

Big risk

Abad said he preferred an “insider” to become chief justice because “they’re tested, their performance is on record.”

If President Benigno Aquino III appoints an outsider as chief justice, Abad said this would involve “a lot of risk.” Apparently referring to President Aquino’s reported choice for the post, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who is only 52 years old, Abad continued: “If the President appoints an untested outsider who will serve 18 to 20 years, [this would entail] a lot of risk. If later on he turns out to be mediocre, a show-off, lazy, ineffective, then he has to commit an impeachable offense [for him to be removed.] You would have bound the country for 20 years.”

While he was appointed by Arroyo, Abad said he voted against her in the SC ruling declaring as unconstitutional the Truth Commission formed by President Aquino to investigate alleged wrondoing under her administration. Abad told the JBC he dissented in that opinion that favored Mrs Arroyo. “I voted for the Truth Commission. You can go no wrong looking for the truth. I can take a position against one who appoints me.”

Responding to questions about his links to former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza and the latter’s client, businessman Lucio Tan, Abad said that while both he and Mendoza had worked at the Solicitor General’s office, he “never worked” directly for Mendoza. But they’re friends, he admitted.

Abad admitted that he once lawyered for Tan in a tax evasion case filed against his company Fortune Tobacco.

He was the first SC justice nominee to be grilled by the JBC in the ongoing public interviews. – Rappler.com


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