Not just intelligence: JBC urged to check psychological state of judiciary hopefuls

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 07 2019 04:08 PM

MANILA - Retired Justice Noel Tijam has urged the Judicial and Bar Council to look beyond intelligence and ensure a “comprehensive and reliable psychological examination” on high court hopefuls.

Tijam, in his retirement speech, said such evaluation will help magistrates gauge a candidate’s ability to “handle the pressure, nuances and demands of the judicial office they are applying for.”

He said that more than intellectual prowess, sound judicial temperament and effective leadership are the hallmarks of a good magistrate.

“Knowledge indeed can be acquired. Judges can be further educated. They can rule based on thorough legal research and be assisted by knowledgeable law clerks,” he said.

“Judicial temperament and effective leadership, on the other hand, are largely products of experience and influenced by a judicial candidate’s personality and disposition,” he added.

Tijam even cited the 4 qualities of a judge, according to Socrates: to hear courteously, to answer wisely, to consider soberly, and to decide impartially.

“Clearly, in the choice of magistrates, greater emphasis must be given on the candidate’s ability to understand and deal with people, to handle stress and criticism, to listen and communicate effectively, and to show patience, courtesy and tact,” he said.

Tijam penned the decision ousting former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno through a quo warranto petition over her failure to submit the required statements of assets, liabilities and net worth as part of the requirements in applying for the top magistrate post.

Prior to the quo warranto petition, Sereno had been accused of failing her psychological exam and of poor leadership in not consulting her fellow magistrates in various decisions, in the impeachment complaint filed against her.

Tijam did not mention Sereno nor the quo warranto decision in his speech, but he underscored the importance of judicial temperament.

“We certainly do not want a spectacle of a judge going ballistic over a decision of this Court, or behaving like a petulant child when she does not get a desired courtroom. Composure is a mark of stability. Thus, we cannot have judges who are likely to exhibit what has been described as the ‘irritable judge syndrome,’” he said.

“We cannot also tolerate arrogance and self-importance among members of the bench. Judgeship does not confer privilege but responsibility. Judges are not gods but public servants. Judges must be willing to listen to views opposite their own and accept the possibility that they are wrong,” he added.

Tijam also asked the Philippine Judicial Academy, the body in charge of continuing education and training of judges and judicial candidates, to consider giving special courses on judicial temperament and leadership skills, including a course on “how to handle the intricacies of judgeship in the age of social media.”