By Rey Panaligan
Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio underscored on Thursday the importance of “four essential elements” to maintain a good judiciary.
Carpio said: “Choose judges well. Pay judges well. Supervise judges well. Recognize judges well.”
He delivered an inspirational message during Thursday’s awarding ceremonies to honor eight trial court judges and a clerk of court as the 2018 Judicial Excellence awardees at the historic landmark Manila Hotel.
Carpio said the country has its Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) “that ensures that judges are chosen well.”
“The JBC is a full-time constitutional body tasked to choose judges and justices well. To get the JBC’s approval is like passing through the eye of a needle,” he said.
He noted that the compensation of judges and justices “has improved in recent years.”
Just recently, he said, the Supreme Court (SC) has upgraded and made uniform the salary grade of first level judges – those in the city, municipal, and regional trial courts.
On the retirement benefits, Carpio said the benefits of judges are now the same as those given to appellate justices when they retire.
“Thus, the monthly pension of retired judges is equivalent to the salary of sitting judges, and the retired judges receive their monthly pension tax-free. Upon the death of the retired judge, his or her monthly pension passes on in full to his or her surviving spouse,” he said.
He declared that the retirement benefits of the country’s judges “is the best retirement package in the world.”
On the supervision of judges, Carpio said two permanent bodies have been institutionalized within the SC to look into complaints.
Created by the SC are the Judiciary Integrity Board and the Corruption Prevention and Investigation Office.
Carpio said these bodies within the SC “institutionalizes the investigation and disciplining system of judges and justices in all lower courts and ensures that all lower court judges and justices are supervised well.”
“The creation of these two permanent bodies plugs a gaping loophole in the effective supervision of lower courts,” stressed.
The recognition of judges is handled by the annual Judicial Excellence Awards (JEA)of the Society for Judicial Excellence (SJE).
Carpio explained that the JEA serves four important functions – “to motivate judges and clerks of courts to excel in the performance of their duties; to commend judges and clerks of courts who exemplify probity and integrity; to create role models in the judiciary for other judges and clerks of courts to emulate; and to inspire confidence among the public in the integrity, effectiveness and fairness of the judicial system.”
He pointed out that the selection and judging process for the Awards is thorough. “The Screening Committees and the Board of Judges, made up mostly of former Judicial Excellence Awardees, understand that the Awards can be given only to the most deserving nominees,” he said.
“A JEA is an important factor when one applies for promotion with the JBC. I myself always vote for applicants who are Judicial Excellence Awardees,” Carpio, also acting ex-officio chairman of JBC, added.
In her welcome remarks, Retired SC Justice Angelina Sandoval Gutierrez, chairperson of the SJE, thanked the SC for its support to the JEA, now on its 27thyear with more than 150 awardees so far.
Gutierrez said that JEA “is an effective mechanism in selecting the gems of the judiciary” and a vehicle for the awardees for promotion to key positions that require the highest standards of competence and integrity.
The 2018 Judicial Excellence awardees are 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.
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 as the Chief Justice Ramon Avanceña Awardees for the Outstanding Second-Level Court Judge category.
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 as the Outstanding Metropolitan Trial Court Judge Awardees.
Judge Ira Fritzie C. Cruz-Rojo of municipal trial court (MTC) Branch 3, Antipolo City as the Outstanding Municipal Trial Court Judge Awardee for the Outstanding First-Level Court Judge category.
Atty. Perpetua Socorro O. Enriquez-Belarmino of the RTC Branch 8, Cebu City as the Outstanding Branch Clerk of Court (Single Sala) Awardee for the Second-Level Branch Clerk of Court category.
The 2018 JEA board of judges is composed of Carpio; 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.