The Philippine Daily Inquirer for today (05 November 2006) has the headline “Miriam vs. ‘Old Boys Club'”. The alleged old-boy network among Philippine jurists will deny Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago the opportunity to be the first woman Chief Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court. According to those in the know, the justices vying for the top post of CJ are set to close ranks and make their influence felt with the 9-member Judicial and Bar Council, which is set to submit a shortlist of three nominees to be appointed by the President.
It would be a pity if she were to be bypassed by the JBC. Even her detractors concede that she is eminently qualified for the position. Miriam is an expert in constitutional law and has a number of years under her belt in the judicial frontlines as a trial judge. Notwithstanding her clear bias for the present dispensation, she will bring passion, erudition and independent-thinking to a Supreme Court that has, except on a few rare occasions, been known for its mediocrity and muddled judgment.
The Warrior Lawyer has also seen a side of Mme. Miriam that is vastly different from her oftentimes edgy public persona. The Warrior Lawyer was a student of then Judge Santiago in international law. She was warm and witty among her students and had a sardonic sense of humor. Judge Santiago was so well loved at the law school that she became the favorite wedding sponsor of our batchmates. When the Warrior Lawyer himself chose to tie the knot, he was summoned to the chambers of Judge Santiago and given a 10-minute talk (it seemed much longer) on the responsibilities of married life. And she was not even my ninang.
The Warrior Lawyer felt deeply for her too when she lost a son under very tragic circumstances, being no stranger to such a catastrophic loss himself. Her sorrow is palpable still. Despite it all, she has soldiered on although her political prospects appear to have dimmed of late. This is in part due to her perceived closeness to the President.
The people close to Miriam disclaim any attempt on her part to lobby for her appointment. She herself has said that it would be an honor just to be nominated and that she is considering other career options, one of which is a prestigious U.N. post. But we need someone like Miriam in the Supreme Court, for three reasons. First, because of her scholarship. Second, because of her humanity. And thirdly, for no other reason that her proven ability to kick butt.