By Rey Panaligan
Eight trial court judges and a clerk of court have been named 2018 Judicial Excellence awardees.
They will be honored in a ceremony starting at 4 p.m. today, November 8, at the Pandanggo Hall of the historic landmark Manila Hotel.
The Supreme Court’s (SC) public information office (PIO), in a press statement, identified the awardees as Judge Nadine Jessica Corazon J. Fama of the regional trial court (RTC), Branch 79, Quezon City, as the Chief Justice Cayetano Arellano Awardee; Judge Loreto S. Alog Jr. of RTC Branch 69, Lingayen, Pangasinan, as the Chief Justice Abad Santos Awardee.
Chief Justice Ramon Avanceña Awardees for the Outstanding Second-Level Court Judge category are: Judge Elisa Sarmiento-Flores of RTC Branch 71, Pasig City; Judge Dorcas P. Ferriols-Perez of RTC Branch 84, Batangas City; and Judge Maria Bernardita J. Santos of RTC Branch 35, Manila.
Outstanding Metropolitan Trial Court Judge Awardees are: Judge Ana Theresa T. Cornejo-Tomacruz of the metropolitan trial court MeTC) Branch 21, Manila; and Judge Joel Socrates Lopena of MeTC Branch 33, Quezon City.
Outstanding Municipal Trial Court Judge Awardee for the Outstanding First-Level Court Judge category is Judge Ira Fritzie C. Cruz-Rojo of municipal trial court (MTC) Branch 3, Antipolo city
Outstanding Branch Clerk of Court (Single Sala) Awardee for the Second-Level Branch Clerk of Court category is lawyer Perpetua Socorro O. Enriquez-Belarmino of the RTC Branch 8, Cebu City.
The annual Judicial Excellence Awards is spearheaded by the Society for Judicial Excellence (SJE) in collaboration with the SC.
The PIO said the 2018 board of judges is composed of SC Senior Associate Antonio T. Carpio, who is acting Chief Justice; SC Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta; retired SC Associate Justices Romeo J. Callejo, Sr., Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez and Adolfo S. Azcuna; retired Court of Appeals Associate Justice Aurora Santiago Lagman; retired Sandiganbayan Justice Raoul V. Victorino; Legal Education Board Chairman Atty. Emerson P. Aquende; and Integrated Bar of the Philippines National President and Chairman of the Board Atty. Abdiel Dan Elijah S. Fajardo.
The achievements of the awardees were summarized by the SC PIO as follows:
Judge Fama has been presiding a special drugs court. Out of 613 cases in her docket as of December 2016, consisting of 527 pending cases and 86 newly ﬁled and revived cases, only 57 cases remained in her court. She is an active lecturer and facilitator in Judicial Dispute Resolution training programs of the Philippine Judicial Academy.
Judge Alog has been a recipient of the Award for Dedicated and Outstanding Service as a Clerk of Court for RTC, Branch 51, Tayug, Pangasinan, and Outstanding Past President Award from the Philippine Trial Judges League, Inc., Pangasinan Chapter. Rising above his physical disability caused by polio, Judge Alog went on to win the bronze medal twice in the Accounting Cycle Category of the International Abilympics, first in Hongkong and later in Perth, Australia.
Judge Sarmiento-Flores introduced automated hearings in her court proceedings and pioneered the use of live-link technology allowing child witnesses to testify from a location outside the courtroom which lowered the trial duration and increased her case disposal and overall court efﬁciency. By the end of 2017, Judge Sarmiento-Flores has reduced by 76 per cent her active pending criminal cases, from 163 to 39.
Judge Ferriols-Perez rose from the ranks in her public service career in the judiciary. She started out as a Court Legal Researcher at the municipal trial court in cities (MTCC) Branch 1, Batangas City, was promoted as Branch Clerk of Court therein, and as fate would have it, after his stint as a Public Attorney at the Public Attorney’s Ofﬁce, later appointed Presiding Judge of the same court. She was designated as Executive Judge (EJ) of the MTCCs in Batangas until her promotion as Presiding Judge of the RTC Branch 84, Batangas City.
Despite being the most junior RTC judge in Batangas City then, she was also designated as the EJ of the RTCs in Batangas from September 2016 to September 2018.
Judge Santos’ stellar performance as a judge earned her many awards, including Most Outstanding MeTC Judge of Manila in 2008 and Most Outstanding RTC Judge of Manila in 2018.
Judge Cornejo-Tomacruz had been a Court Attorney in various ofﬁces of Associate Justices at the Supreme Court for over 11 years when she was appointed as Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) Judge in 2012. An asset to the Bench, she was named Outstanding Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) Judge of Manila and was also a ﬁnalist for the 2015 Judicial Excellence Awards for First Level Court Judges. Aside from her judicial and administrative work, Judge Cornejo-Tomacruz also serves as a facilitator during seminars on Gender Sensitivity Training in the Judiciary organized by the SC Committee on Gender Responsiveness in the Judiciary.
Judge Lopena is the First-Vice Executive Judge of the MeTC of Quezon City, the Vice-Chairperson of the Supreme Court’s jail decongestion reform program Task Force Katarungan at Kalayaan in Quezon City and a member of the Records Disposal Committee of Regional Trial Courts in Quezon City. As of March 31, 2018, as the presiding judge of a designated tax and election court of Metropolitan Trial Court in Quezon City in 2013, Judge Lopena has only 369 cases left pending at Branch 33 notwithstanding the large volume of cases filed every year.
Judge Cruz-Rojo is making a name for herself by impressively reducing her active civil case docket by 86 percent with only 18 cases pending by end of December 2017. Upon her appointment to the Bench as a Judge, as Vice Executive Judge and eventually as Executive Judge, Judge Cruz-Rojo tried to break new ground by introducing programs that promoted wellness, fostered camaraderie, and enhanced communications among first-level courts.
Atty. Enriquez-Belarmino is described as “a rarity in the public service [because] despite the overwhelming workload, she always maintains a pleasant equanimity without any behavioral or attitude problems.” She worked in the private sector as an associate lawyer with Palma and Ybañez and then as a law partner at J.C. Palma and Partners. She started her government career as a Legal Officer III at the Cebu City Attorney’s Office before joining the Judiciary as Clerk of Court V, of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 15, Cebu City, and currently as Clerk of Court V of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 8, Cebu City. Atty. Enriquez-Belarmino is currently an active member of the IBP, Cebu City Chapter, FideracionInternacional de Abogadas, and Cebu Lady Lawyers Association. She was awarded as One of the Outstanding High School Students for Cebu for 1980.