MANILA (UPDATED) — A Court of Appeals justice who hails from Marawi is the latest to be appointed to the Supreme Court — the first time a magistrate from the Bangsamoro region has been appointed to the high court since 1987 and the first Maranao to hold the post.
CA Justice Japar Dimaampao bested 8 other candidates in the shortlist of the Judicial and Bar Council to take the associate justice post vacated by Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, based on a copy of his appointment papers released to the media by SC spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka on Tuesday.
Dimaampao took his oath before Gesmundo at the Supreme Court later Tuesday.
He was born in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur in December 1963 and has 12 years left to serve in the high court. His father, the late Magdara Dimaampao, was a former Comelec Commissioner and Philippine Ambassador to Iraq.
A licensed accountant, Dimampao obtained his business administration major in accounting degree in 1982 from the University of the East, where he also finished his bachelor of laws in 1987.
After a brief private practice, he worked as staff in the Comelec, House of Representatives, and Court of Appeals before becoming senior state prosecutor at the Department of Justice.
He went on to become regional trial court judge in Mandaluyong, where he served for 4 years, before being appointed to the Court of Appeals at 40, among the youngest to hold the post.
The last time a Moro was appointed to the Supreme Court was in 1987 with the appointment of the late Associate Justice Abdulwahid Bidin from Tawi-Tawi, who served until 1995.
Dimaampao is recognized as an expert in civil, commercial and tax laws as well as on Shari’ah and Islamic jurisprudence. He taught these subjects in various law schools and bar review centers and has authored several books on these subjects.
He was Bar examiner for civil law twice and taxation law one. He also served as chairperson for the 2020 Special Shari’ah Bar Exams.
Judicial and Bar Council members like retired Justice Noel Tijam acknowledged his competence in JBC interviews.
But after 17 years at the Court of Appeals and having applied 13 times to the high court under the Duterte administration alone, he was asked in January this year why he keeps getting bypassed.
“I firmly believe in the appointing power of the President. I respect that. It’s only the President who knows the reason, in the exercise of his appointing power,” he said.
“Your honor, allow me to say. I applied again for the 14th time because of my firm belief and conviction in two Koranic injunctions. First, indeed God is with those who patiently persevere. Second, God is the final disposer of affairs. Likewise your honor, I find optimism in the all-saying ‘Hope springs eternal.’ In the fullness of time, God will grant one’s plea,” he added.
He applied for the 15th and 16th time for the associate justice positions vacated by Gesmundo and retired SC Associate Justice Edgardo delos Santos.
Asked what his plans are as possibly only the second Muslim justice to be appointed to the SC, he said he intends to make some revisions to the Shari’ah rules. He also seeks to help implement Bangsamoro justice under RA 11054, or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
He also pledged loyalty to the Constitution, in the same JBC interview.
“I will always uphold the supremacy of the Constitution and I will likewise be guided by the definition of judicial power under Article 8 Section 1 paragraph 2, which in effect adopts the theory of judicial activism,” he said.