Former Manila City prosecutor, councilor is newest SC justice

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 26 2021 12:36 PM | Updated as of Jan 26 2021 03:21 PM

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed a former Manila City councilor and prosecutor as the latest member of the Supreme Court, taking the place vacated by Associate Justice Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla who retired due to health reasons in November last year.

Duterte signed the appointment papers of Court of Appeals Associate Justice Jhosep Lopez on Monday, based on the documents released by the SC Public Information Office on Tuesday.

Lopez has a political science degree from the University of the Philippines, finishing cum laude in 1984, before proceeding to the UP College Law, where he supported himself as a registration assistant while earning his degree, based on his CA profile.

He passed the Bar Exams in 1988 with a rating of 84.55 percent. 

A member of the Sigma Rho fraternity, he also has a masters in public governance from the Pamantasang ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM).

Lopez has served in the legal offices of UP Diliman and UP Manila-PGH before serving for Senate President Jovito Salonga from 1991 to 1992. 

He then became a 4-term Manila City councilor between 1992 and 2007 while being partner in his own law firm.

Lopez also had short stints with the Department of Health (chief legal consultant), Department of Agriculture (as agriculture attache to Beijing) and Manila City government (deputy city legal officer) before becoming Manila City prosecutor from 2006 to 2012.

As Manila City prosecutor, he was credited for digitizing the monitoring of cases.

He joined the Court of Appeals in 2012.

Lopez has taught in various law schools--UP, New Era, PLM, Xavier, University of San Carlos, UM as well as at the UP College of Medicine, Trinity College of Quezon City and CEU College of Business Administration. He also gave PHILJA and MCLE lectures and bar reviews.

As of August 2020, Lopez told the Judicial and Bar Council that he was 57 years old and single. 

JBC member retired Justice Noel Tijam teased him: “You will not also [have] a lovelife when you are in the Supreme Court?”

“I suppose, your honor,” Lopez replied.

Asked for his motivation to go to SC right away, Lopez told Tijam reaching the SC is the dream of any lawyer. 

"You start dreaming while you are still young,” he said.

He added that there are more senior justices who can better administer the appellate court, when he was asked why he did not apply for the CA presiding justice post.

Lopez is the third sitting justice of the Supreme Court to have graduated from UP Law, along with Justices Marvic Leonen and Rosmari Carandang. 

Ateneo Law School (Manila) has 5 justices, led by Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe and San Beda has 3 including Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando. 

University of Santo Tomas has 2 sitting justices led by Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta while the law schools from Ateneo de Davao and University of San Carlos in Cebu have 1 each.

Duterte is set to appoint another justice and a new chief justice once Peralta retires on March 27.