May 24, 2024

The other week, a national broadsheet and this paper carried a news report that new judges had been appointed – one in this city, another in Benguet, and the third in La Union, all three with Baguio roots.
I am acquainted with Judge Marita Balloguing, our friendship dating back to three decades, but she is nowhere near my age.
Those appointed to the Judiciary must be 65 years of age or younger, although I recall a fellow FLAG member who was appointed CFI (Court of First Instance) judge at the age of 69 during Cory’s time, enjoying full retirement benefits upon reaching the age of 70.

Judge Marita is the Regional Trial Court judge stationed at Balaoan, La Union, my mother’s hometown, a small, sleepy town known however for its beautiful women and enterprising menfolk, and alas, also for its violent politics.
When my dad won my mom’s heart, the talk was that Pete Carantes was lucky to have married the most beautiful public school teacher in Baguio, breaking the hearts of other suitors – a Chinese businessman who would later become one of the richest millionaires in the country; another who became a general in the Armed Forces in whose honor a military camp is named, and still another who distinguished himself as a Secretary of Public Works and a thrice elected congressman of his province.
Oh boy, it would have been “larga here, larga there.”
Itanong ninyo kung may pera pa sila, to quote Silver Acre King Don Carding Silverio.

As for the men, two of my Balaoan relatives used to work for Danding Cojuangco, one as a financial adviser, the other as an on-call lawyer 10 months of the year, and could go on vacation anywhere in the world with his family for two months, all taken care of by boss Danding.

My cousin Tony Turalba – he spells his name with a “U” and one “R,” while I spell my middle name with an “O” and two “R’s” – heads a vast business enterprise that includes the active group of companies, the airline “Asian Spirit,” and the Caliraya Golf Club, among others.
He is married to Cristina Valera, and like Tony, herself an architect. The two were classmates in U.P. Diliman, and were topnotchers in the licensure examinations for architects.
I also read in a magazine that Cristina is one of the most influential women in the country.
A daughter is married to a son of a powerful Bicol politician who was at one time Speaker of the House.
Pardon the bragging, but during family gatherings of the Turalbas or Torralbas, Laddas, Agtaraps, Lopezes, Concepcions, and Asperillas, the talk is all about who’s who in the clan.
By the way, the late Judge Roy Masadao’s middle name is Agtarap.

Although two of the new judges were featured in the columns of lawyers Emong Bandonill and Ed Avila, namely Judge “Gani” (Calderon) and Judge “Li” (Sindayen-Libiran), I do not personally know them, but they come to their jobs with very impressive credentials in the mold of Justices Salvador Valdez, Jr. Ruben Ayson, Romeo Brawner, the siblings Cabato – Judges Nanding and Luming, taking after their venerable old man Judge Federico Cabato Sr. – and Del Claravall, but to make a long list short, all the current magistrates in Baguio-Benguet.

I know Judge Li’s husband, however, whose opinion I sometimes sought on complicated legal matters, even after his appointment as a ranking official of the Indigenous People’s Commission, the chairmanship of which I once aspired for, which I thought, mistakenly alas, was in the bag, given all the congratulations coming my way from friends and colleagues.
It seems I didn’t get the nod of the Aquino sisters, who considered the IPC as their personal domain.
All water under the bridge.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention the late Justice Abe Borreta.
I recall an incident when my cousin, a retired provincial fiscal, coming over to my office inquiring if I know the new judge, Abraham Borreta.
“Yes,” I replied, “but why do you ask?”
“He doesn’t know a damn thing about the law,” my cousin fumed, “How did he get to be appointed RTC Judge?”
“I agree,” I tease my cousin, how could someone who graduated as valedictorian of his U.P. Law class, and who placed eighth in the Bar exams, be appointed judge.
After that I saw a cat running away with my cousin’s tongue.

In my early years as a private practitioner, most appointed judges had the right connections and never mind the credentials.
Because their knowledge of the law was often at variance, their misunderstandings soon developed into a feud, and worsened when one judge who had a reputation for being a practical joker, fooled with the honor of a colleague, involving the others in a traffic altercation that had policemen taking into custody the unknowing and surprised judge, right on the judge’s convention floor.
Pretty soon, word circulated that the High Court was investigating stories of judges drinking high priced liquor while gambling with high stakes during office hours.
The funny thing was that the judge who was dismissed wasn’t even involved in the fight among his peers.
His supposed crime? He failed to sign a birth certificate with his left foot.

Congratulations to the new judges. It is time for an old face to retire from law practice. Unlike in the old days, I can no longer run rings around them and bluff my way through.
My “wido-wido” will no longer work, given the fresh crop of bright young judges that started some years back when their kind began trekking into the Judiciary.
Matatalino lahat, mga iba guwapo at maganda pa. Por ehemplo, Judges Ligaya, Mia, say Bob.
At my age – 78 going into 80, my eyesight has yet to fail me.
My apologies to Judge Modesto Bahul of the family court. I am not really sure about his roots, but I am told that he too, has lots of feathers in his hat.
At last, the wheels of justice are beginning to grind.
Wala nang bata bata at paborito. Tapos na ang kanilang maliligayang araw. Parehas na ang lahat.