SC magistrates convene in Baguio for first time since pandemic

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 18 2022 04:00 PM

Thirteen out of 15 Supreme Court justices were present for their flag raising ceremony in Baguio City on April 18, 2022, marking the start of the high court's summer session. Photo courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office 
Thirteen out of 15 Supreme Court justices were present for their flag raising ceremony in Baguio City on April 18, 2022, marking the start of the high court's summer session. Photo courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office 


BAGUIO CITY — Supreme Court magistrates began Monday holding their summer session in Baguio for the first time since the pandemic started.

Thirteen of the fifteen magistrates attended the flag raising ceremony, which marks the start of the high court's summer session.

Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo was seen walking from the justices’ cottage to the Supreme Court office past 8 a.m., so were justices Marvic Leonen, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, Japar Dimaampao and Midas Marquez, as well as SC staff who normally accompany the justices.

“Baguio has always been our second home. It has provided us
shelter from the elevating heat in Manila. But this time, it has given
us a much-needed respite from our pandemic stress and weariness,” the top magistrate said at the end of the flag raising ceremony.

A yearly tradition that started in 1948, SC justices would spend the entire month of April in Baguio to deliberate on cases, resolve urgent motions and applications, and on some occasion, hold oral arguments.

The most recent oral arguments held in Baguio were on the quo warranto petition in 2018 against now-ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

The pandemic forced magistrates to cancel the yearly tradition in 2020, which means this is the first Baguio summer session for Gesmundo as chief justice and for as many as 9 justices beginning with Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul Inting, who was appointed only in May 2019 (which was before the pandemic but just after the last summer session in 2020).

“Resuming our summer session here signifies that the Court is already easing its way towards the new normal,” Gesmundo said during his speech.

“But this is not to say that we can [let] our guards down. Let us
continue to practice safety protocols so that when we go back to our
home in Padre Faura and to our families, we return as safe and
healthy as when we left them,” he added.

BAR EXAMS

Gesmundo, meanwhile, congratulated 2020-21 Bar Exams chair Leonen for innovations introduced during the exams held in February, which was postponed several times due to the pandemic.

For the first time in its more than a hundred-year history, the Bar Exams shifted to a computerized exam instead of the usual handwritten exam, and the Supreme Court opened local testing centers across the country instead of holding it in one venue in Manila.

And rather than four whole Sundays, the 2020-21 Bar Exams were held in two days, spaced one day apart.

The results also came out in two months, instead of the five-month usual waiting time.

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"With him, we have blazed the trail of Bar reforms. And we congratulate, too, our Bar passers. May they embody and practice the ideals we envisioned for the legal profession,” Gesmundo said of Leonen.

SENIOR ASSOCIATE JUSTICE ESTELA PERLAS-BERNABE

SAJ Estela Perlas-Bernabe. courtesy: SCPIO
SAJ Estela Perlas-Bernabe. courtesy: SCPIO

The first to give a speech on Monday was Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, who is attending her last summer session.

She is set to retire on May 14 when she reaches the mandatory retiring age of 70.

“Sa aking pagreretire sa (When I retire on) May 14, 2022, I do not want to say farewell kasi 'di ba 'pag farewell, parang malungkot? (because bidding farewell is sad). Instead, thank you and see you again,” she said.

“Hopefully, I will still be here to see you as guest of the Court. But for now, I want to tell you that I really appreciate everything that you did for me and for the Court. Talagang naging parte kayo ng aking journey bilang magistrate ng Supreme Court (You really became part of my journey as a magistrate of the Supreme Court). So thank you for 11 years of gracious hospitality and warm camaraderie,” she added, recounting her transfers of offices, the repair of her cottage and thanking all the staff of the high court who made all of these possible.

Six justices have been shortlisted by the Judicial and Bar Council to take her post — Court of Appeals justices Ramon Cruz, Maria Elisa Diy, Ronaldo Martin, Fernanda Lampas-Peralta and Maria Filomena Singh, and Sandiganbayan Justice Geraldine Faith Econg.

Gesmundo thanked Perlas-Bernabe for her “decades of devoted service to the Judiciary.”

“I join the whole Supreme Court community in wishing her all the
best as she begins a new chapter in her remarkable life. Hopefully,
taking on an active role in legal education and judicial reform
programs. Truly, it is my privilege to have worked with her,” the Chief Justice said.

The summer session will last for two weeks.

Members of the media are expected to join a training session next week sponsored by the SC Public Information Office.