Friday, April 11, 2008

On Justice Arturo Brion

Justice Arturo Brion is the newest member of the Supreme Court. Being the number one placer in the 1974 Bar, no one will chide Justice Brion for being an intellectual lightweight. His expansive and impressive experience in private and public law practice, together with his good reputation, makes him more than qualified to be a member of the Court.

But right now, his term is off to a shaky start. Right after his appointment, some groups have criticized his appointment, despite his vow to become an impartial member of the court. His credibility was shaken further when he participated in the controversial Romulo Neri ruling, prompting questions about his delicadeza.

He has already lost the battle of first impressions, which may hound him for the rest of his stay in the highest court of the land. That is too bad, considering that he has the credentials and experience to make a positive impact in the Supreme Court.

But I think the people's adverse reaction to Justice Brion's appointment to the SC and his participation in the Neri Case is only normal. He was appointed on March 17. The Neri ruling came out on March 25. It is possible that he has already familiarized himself with the case in a span of 8 days, but still, it gives the impression that he was plucked from DOLE to the SC to tilt the balance in favor of Neri and the Arroyo administration. People would naturally go up in arms even if his position is firm and his arguments are sound. As the Supreme Court itself said in Rallo v. Gako, Jr.:

Well-known is the judicial norm that ‘judges should not only be impartial but should also appear impartial.’ Jurisprudence repeatedly teaches that litigants are entitled to nothing less than the cold neutrality of an impartial judge. The other elements of due process, like notice and hearing, would become meaningless if the ultimate decision is rendered by a partial or biased judge. Judges must not only render just, correct and impartial decisions, but must do so in a manner free of any suspicion as to their fairness, impartiality and integrity.

And this is where Justice Brion is found wanting.

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