Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin has called on all court judges to support his four-point reform agenda for the judiciary, which includes updating the Rules of Court, purging the bench of misfits and scalawags, initiating Bar reforms, and adopting legal clinics to enhance access to justice.
During the testimonial dinner held in his honor by the Philippine Judges Association at Diamond Hotel on Thursday, Bersamin also exhorted all trial court judges to “view criticism of our work and our actuation as the necessary scalpels that help us excise our actual faults and perceived fallibilities.”
According to him, while his tenure as chief magistrate is short, or “324 days to be exact,” he is confident that his four-point agenda will come to fruition with all the help and support especially from the judges.
“As the Chief Justice, I have assumed the greatest responsibility ever to be placed on the frail shoulders of any active judge. And in that task, I must ensure that our courts and judges function efficiently and competently. But I am confident, that with the PJA fully behind me, I will not fail,” he told the judges.
The top magistrate reminded all judges about the qualities and characteristics that every judge, whether a member of the PJA or not, must have—integrity, probity, and competence. He emphasized that they “must stay human…must act human” in addition to these qualities that have qualified them to their judicial positions.
“I think that the foremost one, that you, as trial judges should exhibit and not leave in your homes each day as you go to work is humanity. No judge will be worth his or her title if he or she ignores or abandons his or her humanity at work,” he said.
The chief magistrate pointed out that he does not mean that their being human should mean that “you act in your usual ways.”
“You are now wearing the mantle of authority in your jurisdiction. And this often requires [you] to be stern and serious. You must convince the communities you serve that you are the visible representation of the law. For if the laws were to be obeyed, the judges that administer them must be credible and not ridiculous. As judges, we are unavoidably leaders whether we like it or not. As leaders, we must lead and not mislead,” Bersamin said.
Bersamin advised the trial court judges to “never hate nor decry criticism of our work and our persons.”
“We cannot be immune from the scrutiny of the people. It is their absolute right to do so no matter how criticism may be unjust or harsh or unfair, we should welcome it. We should view criticism of our work and our actuation as the necessary scalpels that help us excise our actual faults and perceived fallibilities. Criticism has a natural place in our scheme of things. It is our reminder of our own limitations. It opens our eyes to our shortcomings and mistakes which we do not correct without anyone telling us about. On the other hand, any degree of intolerance on criticism may lead us to become martinets, or worst, tyrants. But that we do not what to be for we could not be martinets or tyrants,” he stressed.
Likewise, the chief justice also underscored the importance of being humble, saying that “No judge should accord too much self-esteem to himself or herself.” He said that the lack of humility on the part of any person is always a sign of an inner weakness that is sought to be concealed from you by the appearance of pride and superiority. He stressed that “humility makes us love our offices much more.” He encouraged the judges to “be dedicated to and conscious of our tasks and responsibilities.”
He thanked the PJA, saying that such recognition from the association, which he once belonged to when still a Regional Trial Court Judge in Quezon City, “brings any other judge that high sense of validation of all the effort and time expended in the demanding task of adjudication of judicial disputes.”
Bersamin, the country’s 25th chief justice, noted that only a few trial judges have actually been appointed to the top SC post. Of the 24 other Chief Justices, the others who were trial judges like him were the late Chief Justices Ricardo M. Paras and Felix V. Makasiar, and retired Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno He also mentioned his predecessor Chief Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-de Castro who, as a justice of the Sandiganbayan, also took part in conducting trials