Who is SC Associate Justice Noel Tijam?
MANILA, Philippines – Court of Appeals (CA) Associate Justice Noel Tijam, a law school classmate of President Rodrigo Duterte, has been named the latest appointee to the Supreme Court (SC).
Tijam, who has over 4 decades of law practice under his belt, replaces SC justice Arturo Brion, who retired last December 29.
Tijam's appointment on Wednesday, March 8, comes just two days after Sandiganbayan associate justice and fellow Bedan Samuel Martires was appointed to the High Tribunal. (READ: Get to know Duterte's first Supreme Court appointee Samuel Martires)
Tijam graduated magna cum laude from San Beda College in 1967, with a degree in Bachelor of Arts, Major in Philosophy and Political Science. In 1971, he graduated salutatorian from the San Beda College of Law.
Before his appointment to the appellate court in 2003, he served as Presiding Judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221. He has also held various positions in the private sector and in government.
The 68-year-old justice earned 4 votes from the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) during the panel interviews last November.
Like his fellow appointee Martires, he will have two years to serve as SC magistrate before he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Maguindanao massacre case
In 2011, Tijam penned the CA resolution that upheld the inclusion of former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr in the list of respondents in the controversial Maguindanao massacre case, where 57 people were killed.
The CA junked Ampatuan's petition, which sought to dismiss two resolutions by the justice department that found probable cause to indict him for one of the worst cases of election-related killings in Philippine history.
A year later, the CA also affirmed the inclusion of former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan as one of the accused in the case.
The former governor had earlier sought Tijam's inhibition, accusing him of already prejudging the case.
But the CA justice refused to inhibit.
“While each of these two cases has its own set of peculiarities, this Court did not, however, waste its precious time and resources to try and paint two completely different pictures of only one and the same scenario,” Tijam said.
Tijam was one of the CA justices who handled the case of Reynald "Jojo" Lim, the brother of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
In 2013, Lim and Napoles faced charges of serious illegal detention for allegedly detaining their cousin Benhur Luy for 3 months. In April 2015, a Makati court convicted and sentenced Napoles to reclusion perpetua or 40 years in jail.
In 2014, Lim sought to stop his indictment and to have the arrest warrant against him recalled, but the CA junked his petition.
The resolution penned by Tijam read: "We are not prejudging the criminal case or the guilt or innocence of the petitioner. We are simply saying that, as a general rule, if the information is valid on its face, there is no showing of manifest error, grave abuse of discretion or prejudice on the part of the public prosecutor, courts should not dismiss it for 'want of evidence' because evidentiary matters should be presented and heard during the trial."
Banco Filipino, Camp John Hay cases
In 2013, Tijam penned the CA resolution reaffirming its earlier ruling on the closure of thrift bank Banco Filipino in 2011, after it failed to settle its obligations.
Banco Filipino shareholders filed a motion for reconsideration on the appellate court's 2012 decision overturning its earlier order to reopen the bank.
“After a careful review of petitioners’ motion for reconsideration, we find that the issues and arguments raised in the said motion were already comprehensively discussed and passed upon by this Court in its amended decision,” the court said.
In 2015, Tijam drew criticism from the state-run Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) after he issued a ruling that reversed a decision of the Arbitral Tribunal of the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center, which ordered CJH Development Corporation to vacate Camp John Hay.
The BCDA said it was a "disadvantageous" ruling that caused the government P5 billion in losses.
But Tijam disputed this, saying there was "no truth" to the assertion that the court's decision was "detrimental to the government’s financial interests.”
Ties with Duterte
During the JBC interviews, Tijam was asked how he would be able to maintain his independence as SC justice given his close connection with the President, his law school classmate.
In response, Tijam cited his 2003 CA decision affirming the constitutionality of former president Benigno Aquino III's revocation of "midnight appointments" by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Tijam himself was appointed by Arroyo to the appellate court in 2003.
"Presidents do not make any attempt to influence judges and I have never experienced that," Tijam said.
He also said Duterte was not the kind of person to ask favors.
"Knowing him, he's full of pride, he has a personality, he will be the last person to ask favors in the judiciary," he said.
- Graduated Magna Cum Laude from San Beda College in 1967, with a degree in Bachelor of Arts, Major in Philosophy and Political Science
- Graduated Cum Laude and Class Salutatorian from the San Beda College of Law in 1971
- Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals since 2003
- Appointed Presiding Judge of the Quezon City RTC Branch 221 in 1994
- Served as Legal Consultant at the Philippine Senate representing former Senator Victor Ziga; served as Assistant Vice President and Deputy Corporate Secretary of the GSIS; became Legal Counsel and Corporate Secretary of the Manila Hotel Corporation and the Westin Philippine Plaza; Board Director of Comsavings Bank
- Taught law at the Philippine School of Business Administration