Who is Judge Paz Esperanza Cortes?
September 20, 2014
LIFE’S INSPIRATIONS: “… maintain justice in the courts…” (Amos 5:15, the Holy Bible).
ATTACKS ON JUDGE, ATTACKS ON JUDICIARY: Too much mud is now being heaped on Taguig City Regional Trial Court Judge Paz Esperanza Cortes in connection with her 75 page or so ruling allowing Denice Cornejo, Cedric Lee and Zimmer Raz to post bail in the non-bailable case of serious illegal detention which actor and TV host Vhong Navarro filed against them.
The objective in the attacks against Judge Cortes, led by no less than Justice Secretary Leila De Lima and a big media organization, is to discredit her, first to remove Vhong Navarro’s case from her and transfer it to a judge who maybe convinced to be more sympathetic to Navarro’s side, and, second, to compel a reversal of the order allowing Cornejo, Lee and Raz to post bail, obviously upon the prodding of powerful persons.
This is unfortunate, because this mudslinging is hurting not just Cortes anymore, but the entire judicial system, because what De Lima and her cohorts have been doing is eroding the people’s faith not only in Cortes as a judge, but against the judiciary as a whole and in the capacity of the judicial branch to dispense equal justice even for the poor and the oppressed.
WHO IS JUDGE PAZ ESPERANZA CORTES? I don’t personally know Judge Cortes, although there is a case that is being handled by me in her court (I intend to ask for her inhibition after this column so I will not be accused of merely courting her favor). That notwithstanding, I am compelled to write this column to contribute to the discussion of Cortes’ ability to be fair and just, in the face of relentless attacks against her now, in media yet.
First, Paz Esperanza Cortes graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law. Her classmates, among them activist lawyer-doctor Rudyard Avilla III, in Facebook posts, fully vouch, in unison, for her integrity and dedication to the law, and her beyond-reproach handling of cases in court.
Then, even before I appeared in her court, her reputation for honesty and fairness already reached me, in my personality as a free legal aid lawyer who had been helping the poor and the underprivileged fight their cases, especially those against the rich and the powerful who have no qualms using their money to win. It appears that Cortes is a jewel of the judiciary when it comes to fair and blameless disposition of cases.
JUDGING FAIRLY, ACCORDING TO LAW: For, I learned that Cortes was assigned a case involving several Taguig City residents whose small-sized lands, near where the C-6 Highway is to be constructed and where their modest residential shanties stand, were being run after by a rich businesswoman and her heirs who had earlier sold them the lands. The businesswoman managed to get an order ejecting the residents allegedly because they failed to pay their amortizations.
Without anyone from the residents talking to her and without anyone of them trying to influence the outcome of the case against them, Judge Cortes sided with them, revoked the ejectment order against them, and recognized the residents’ status as buyers in good faith of their lands who must be allowed to proceed with their purchase of the real estate, in accordance with what is now known as the Maceda Law.
I was astounded to know this decision of Judge Cortes. I mean, it would have been very easy for her to have amassed money in that case. Yet, she chose to uphold the right of the residents who could not offer her anything except their gratitude and their prayers, pursuant to what the law provides. I remember having prayed that there would be more of a Judge Cortes in our courts nationwide.
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