Today is Sunday, September 23, 2018

PJ Conrado M. Vasquez, Jr., "Papa Choy" to Us

By J. Myrna Dimaranan Vidal

Believing that the man who could best describe Presiding Justice Conrado M. Vasquez, Jr, is his former schoolmate in the elementary and high school,  corresponding request was made in this regard to Hon. Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno. The following is the Chief Justice’s candid comment on Our PJ:

Presiding Justice Vasquez is the epitome of a humble leader who does not pretend to have all the answers but is instead open and receptive to the ideas of others. He is also a good team leader who gets things done by making people come and work together, rather than as individuals, towards a common aspiration.

Now let’s hear from the man of the hour himself… (I was given the honor to do a one on one interview with Papa Choy.)

Q: Your appointment as Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals has been met with jubilation in the CA. To what do you attribute this unprecedented approval?

A: I think it is assuming too much that my appointment as PJ was met with jubilation by the justices and the rank and file in the Court of Appeals. Ok, even granting it to be true, it could not be unprecedented since other PJs before were also received with approval in the Court.  Neither can I give you a definite answer as to what I attribute such reaction to my appointment.  All my life, I have always pursued an ordinary life, doing things the way I feel they should be done and relating with others by just being me.

Q: Evidently you had a lucrative law practice before you opted to join the judiciary. What made you give up all this in exchange for a low paying job as RTC Judge?

A: My twenty-five (25) years of practice of law was really not so lucrative.  I was rendering pro bono legal services to almost all my townmates as an election promise. Later, after the martial law regime, my parents saw an opportunity to take me out of politics by joining the judiciary and follow my father's footsteps.

Q: You performed legislative work as councilor for 4 years and then that of the Executive as Vice Mayor for another 4 years, and now you are in the judiciary. Which job do you consider as the most fulfilling and interesting?

A: My legislative experience as municipal councilor and vice-mayor, and my stint in the judiciary are both fulfilling and interesting. Honestly, though, I would still consider politics as more relaxing and full of life. In politics, I enjoyed to the hilt my interaction with my townmates without any inhibition nor reservation. I understood their plights, needs, hopes and desires, and assisted them in any possible way I could. In the judiciary, albeit also fulfilling, we have to maintain and keep a distance even from our closest of friends, relatives and allies.

Q: What lessons did you learn from your career in politics and in active practice of law which are relevant to the problems beseeching the courts?

A: A lot of things. In politics and practice of law, I was able to immerse into the lives of people and feel their demands and problems, and realized the hardship of the poor in seeking fair justice. These predicaments cause delay in court litigations which eventually lead to injustice. I see these difficulties as relevant to the problems of our courts today that need to be properly addressed.

Q: You were an RTC Judge for 7 years and a CA Associate Justice for 13 long years before you finally won your present position. Have you in the past at one time or another, ever pondered and regretted having entered the judiciary?

A: Yes I did. During the first two years after my appointment as an RTC Judge, I was looking for a graceful way out and go back to the practice of law. I entertained fear that the salary of an RTC Judge could not support my growing family. But then, as I pondered on that apprehension, the thought of my father's living a simple life within his means, walked me through and kept me in the judiciary.

Q: There is a growing consensus among legal circles and other concerned civic and business groups for the amendment of the Philippine Constitution to lodge the appointment of judges and justices to the Supreme Court, to solve, among others, the evil of political patronage. What is your stand on this?

A: I offer no objection to the idea. I believe the Supreme Court is in a better position to determine the qualifications of possible appointees.

Q: The number one problem of the CA as in other courts, is the clogging of the court's docket. What is your vision to solve this?

A: The problem of the clogging of Court's dockets has existed for decades now and the subject of a lot of measures to remedy the dilemma. Lately, however, the latest report I got shows that last year, the Court of Appeals' total disposition of cases reached up to 104% which is 4% over the cases filed in the year. I have, therefore, high hopes that with the present membership of the Court composed of young, talented and energetic justices, the backlog of cases in the CA will be drastically reduced.  Add to this is the computerization project of the Court which hopefully, if budget permits, will be operational in due time.

Q: You have been a Division Chairman for seven years. How do you avoid bitter conflicts among your division members when contentious issues crop up?

A: Diversity of opinions in resolving cases in all the divisions I have been assigned is a welcome occurrence. In deliberating on contentious issues, we focus our discussion on what is right and not on who is right, at the same time, respecting each other's view on a professional level.  At the end of the day, bitter conflicts are avoided.

Q: You are known as a low-key CA magistrate. Are you willing to shed off this image of invisibility and like Hon. Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno embark on judicial activism so as to steer public awareness on the role of the judiciary in nation building?

A: Yes, I am willing to join hands with the Chief Justice, Hon. Reynato S. Puno, in that endeavor. I sincerely believe that the judiciary is a bulwark of democracy.

Q: We cannot veer away from the national problems like corruption in the government, including the judiciary, unsolved killings and others. In what way can the judiciary be a part of the solution to these problems?

A: The judiciary is a major player in solving these problems and can help a lot by simply dispensing justice equally and fairly to rich and poor alike without fear or favor. When wrongdoers are made aware that the courts will spare no one in punishing criminals and grafters, illegal activities including violations of human rights will surely be curtailed. As to extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, we now have the Writ of Amparo offering protection to our citizens' life, security and liberty. Indeed, a trustworthy judiciary will greatly help build a strong Republic.

Q: In this connection, are you in favor of making available the CA justices' Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) to the general public to give meaning to the Constitutional provision on the right to access to information on matters of public concern?

A: I personally believe that the Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Networth (SALN) should enjoy confidentiality, but being part of public records, the general public may not be denied access to the information therein contained. After all, if one has nothing to hide, what is there to be worried about.

Q: The CA justices and employees are asking if they can expect the PJ to take a more aggressive stance to work for the augmentation of our allowances and other allowable perks. What is your comment on this?

A: The augmentation of court employees' allowances and benefits must and has always been the target of any Presiding Justice. Yes, I will.

Q: How do you wish the CA to be known under your watch?

A: Nothing more than the usual. A Court of Appeals that is credible, responsive and proud where everyone is rest assured that justice through law prevails.

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